Summerside could become electricity-independent by 2025: Consultant
Report says city can save money while generating all its own electricity, eliminating imports from N.B.
An energy consultant is recommending Summerside increase its capacity to generate its own electricity, saying the city can save money by relying less on imported electricity from the mainland.
The city released a draft report Thursday from Dunsky Energy Consulting, which recommends Summerside invest in battery storage, expand programs to use wind energy to provide thermal heat in city homes and use biodiesel as a backup electricity source during peak winter months.
According to the report, the city could become completely self-reliant for its electricity by 2025, while at the same time saving millions of dollars compared with the cost of purchasing electricity from NB Power.
Julie-Ann Vincent of Dunsky Energy Consulting said that a decade ago, the notion of a small city utility generating all its own electricity would have been "really a unique, kind of leading edge municipal utility that did it."
"But more and more with advances in battery storage, and solar and wind … that is becoming a more realistic option for utilities of any size including municipal ones."
The Dunsky plan doesn't recommend the city invest in solar power or expand its wind generation, but it does include measures to maintain and further utilize the city's existing wind power, including a pilot project to invest in battery storage in the early 2020s.
The recommendation does rest on some fairly important assumptions: that prices for battery storage will decrease significantly in the next few years, while the price to import electricity from the mainland will continue to rise.
Vincent says a "stacked" or layered approach to increasing the city's electrical capacity using a variety of sources would lead to a more diverse, reliable system.
"You want to make sure if one of your sources of capacity goes down, that you have enough other sources that are not linked to that, that you can still keep your system up and running. Any one source that dominates your system provides added risk."
In 2018 Summerside relied on its own wind generation to provide 46 per cent of its electricity. A further 53 per cent was imported from New Brunswick, while one per cent came from a backup diesel generator operated by Summerside Electric.
Summerside council commissioned the Dunsky report as a means to explore ways to increase its own generating capacity while reducing its reliance on imported energy. The city had issued a tender for a replacement diesel generator expected to cost up to $20 million but put that project on hold pending the Dunsky review.
The report says even factoring in capital costs, the plan would provide the city with a net positive cash flow by 2020 compared to importing electricity, with annual savings of more than a million dollars per year by 2029.
The report says those savings could be used to lower rates or generate more revenue for the city.
Vincent said the Dunsky plan would also reduce the city's carbon footprint.
Dunsky will host a pair of information sessions in the city to gather public feedback on its draft report before providing the city with a final report. Both open houses will take place Feb. 28 at Credit Union Place.