Wind turbines in a field
The Ellershouse wind farm. Photo: Bullfrog Power

The province has issued a Request for Proposals for new large wind and solar projects capable of supplying 10% of the province’s electricity  from renewable sources. The procurement will be handled by the American firm CustomerFirst Renewables, which was initially hired by the previous Liberal government, as reported by the Examiner in April 2021.  

Nova Scotia now generates about 30% of its electricity from renewable sources. Another 20% in the form of hydro from Muskrat Falls is anticipated by the end of 2022. This large-scale wind and solar procurement is aimed at adding another 10% to reach 60%. Last autumn the Houston government passed legislation setting an 80% renewables target by 2030.

Yesterday’s government news release states the new wind and solar projects will generate 350 megawatts of low-cost renewable energy and reduce Nova Scotia’s greenhouse gas emissions by more than one million tonnes annually.

“This represents the largest potential to reduce greenhouse gases from a single government procurement,” said Tory Rushton, Minister of Natural Resources and Renewables. “We are committed to have 80 per cent of Nova Scotia’s electricity needs supplied by renewable energy by 2030, and the projects that come from this RFP will play a critical role in helping us achieve that goal.”

Note the phrase “government procurement” in the first line of Minister Rushton’s statement. It marks a significant shift in a province where most of the electricity is generated by one company that also distributes it: Nova Scotia Power. In recent years, a small number of independently-owned wind farms have been added to the grid and a number of First Nations have begun generating some of their own electricity through wind turbines and solar panels. A handful of municipally-owned utilities have also been trailblazers when it comes to embracing renewable sources of energy as the cost of the technologies has declined.

The Department of Natural Resources and Renewables says the province is in the final stages of negotiations with the Canada Infrastructure Bank to offer “financing options” for companies that will submit bids on their projects. CustomerFirst Renewables will assist in choosing the winners based on a competitive bidding process and the inclusion of diverse communities.

“In addition to driving economic growth across the province, the RFP aims to prioritize social benefits by incentivizing meaningful partnerships with the Mi’kmaq of Nova Scotia and other underrepresented groups,” says Gary Farha, CustomerFirst Renewables founder and CEO.

Up to five projects are expected to be selected from the process, states the news release. It adds: “They are expected to create upwards of 2,000 direct and indirect jobs over their lifetime, mostly in rural Nova Scotia, and generate more than $550 million in construction activity.” Successful proponents will receive a 25-year sales contract with Nova Scotia Power.

“It is encouraging to see the Nova Scotia government taking the initiative to do right by its commitments for climate action,” said Gurprasad Gurumurthy, renewable energy coordinator for the Ecology Action Centre. “At the same time, the government must phase out coal plants currently in operation as soon as possible. It will also be crucial that every project established under this RFP undergo thorough environmental assessments. We must not compromise biodiversity over a clean transition to renewables.”

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Jennifer Henderson is a freelance journalist and retired CBC News reporter.

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