1. Nova Scotia’s looming hydrogen disaster
Somebody is going to criticize me for using the above photo for this item. And for sure, there’s very, very little chance that any of the green proposed hydrogen plants in Nova Scotia will actually explode. But I think the photo accurately illustrates a huge disaster in the abstract.
We’ve seen this play out dozens of times: chasing the promise of jobs! and prosperity forever, amen!, politicians cut regulations, ignore history and economic reality, and give huge subsidies and tax breaks to giant corporations to set up some pipe dream operation in Nova Scotia that inevitably leads to disaster.
Sometimes the pipe dreams lead to death — think Westray — but most often they simply lead to the loss of enormous sums of public money. There’s the heavy water plant in Glace Bay, Claritone, the Mercator One, the Stoddart Island nuclear plants, and on and on and on (I’ve lost track of them all).
You know what they say: fool me once, shame on you; fool me 28 times…
But here we are again, chasing another fantasy about jobs! and prosperity forever, amen! by selling our collective soul and collective public treasury to various foreign corporations, this time those promising the fruits of ‘green hydrogen.’
Of course we need to address the climate crisis stat, but as with all complex systems, there’s no single silver bullet. While green hydrogen probably does have potentially worthwhile, but very limited, uses, it’s not going to become the trillion dollar, world-spanning industry proponents suggest. Right now, it’s just a way for billionaires to skim off profits from unwise investors and through tax subsidies.
Besides, as Joan Baxter details this morning, the ‘green hydrogen’ projects proposed for Nova Scotia — EverWind and now Bear Head Energy, both at Point Tupper — don’t even succeed on their own terms.
The fantasy is these projects are “green” because they will use renewably generated electricity to mine water for hydrogen, which will then be super-cooled and put into tankers bound for German electricity generating plants, replacing the natural gas the Russians have cut off.
The Germans could mine their own water for hydrogen and avoid the need for all those trans-Atlantic super tankers, but the proponents actually argue that Nova Scotia wind is better than German Wind. Besides, if Germans produced their own green hydrogen, they’d lose out on the billions of dollars in Canadian federal tax subsidies, so there’s that.
The fundamental question is this: Where will the renewably generated electricity come from?
Baxter asked that question to Larry Hughes, a founding fellow at the MacEachen Institute for Public Policy and Governance and professor of electrical and computer engineering at Dalhousie University:
Hughes said, “If the plan is to create green hydrogen and green ammonia, they cannot use NSP [the Nova Scotia Power grid] because it will not be a ‘green’ source of electricity for decades to come.”
He referred the Examiner to a February 2023 article he penned, in which he noted that for EverWind to produce 200,000 tonnes at its hydrogen-ammonia facility in Point Tupper as it plans to do so it can start exporting that quantity of ammonia to Germany by 2025, the project would require 2,200 gigawatt-hours of electricity a year.
“To put this in perspective, in 2021, Nova Scotia Power produced slightly less than 11,000 gigawatt-hours of electricity and sold about 10,200 gigawatt-hours to its customers,” wrote Hughes. “In other words, the electricity requirements of a 200,000-tonne green ammonia facility are about one-fifth of Nova Scotia Power’s total production in 2021. Which raises the question, where will the energy come from?”
In an answer to Baxter’s questions, EverWind says it’s going to build a giant offshore wind farm. Baxter continues:
According to Hughes, the two-gigawatt onshore wind farm would require 330 six-megawatt wind turbines, and it could supply about 7,900 GWh a year. That is 30 more than the 300 commercial wind turbines currently generating electricity in all of Nova Scotia.
Hughes said it would still not be enough green energy to produce a million tonnes of green hydrogen and ammonia, which would require about 11,000 gigawatt-hours of electricity a year.
“This is as much electricity as Nova Scotia Power produced in 2021,” said Hughes. “Where will EverWind get this electricity?”
The problem, notes Baxter, is that:
Nova Scotia Power is struggling to meet the deadline imposed by Nova Scotia’s Electricity Act that stipulates that 80% of its grid must be supplied by renewable energy by 2030. Its coal-fired plants still accounted for 41% of the province’s electrical energy production as of June 2022. They must all be closed in just seven years. According to Nova Scotia Power spokesperson Jacqueline Foster, renewables — “mainly hydro and wind” — accounted for just 37% of the province’s power supply in 2022.
In other words, there is a big shortage of renewable energy in the province, not nearly enough even for Nova Scotia’s domestic needs. But that doesn’t seem to deter EverWind or Bear Head Energy from launching grandiose projects that will need absolutely massive amounts of it to produce hydrogen, which will be turned into ammonia and exported.
In short, very likely the ‘green hydrogen’ projects will be sucking renewably generated power from the Nova Scotia Power grid that is supposed to be getting we Nova Scotians off fossil fuels.
Hughes left with an ominous warning:
The premier’s announcement [about a modest increase in offshore wind] failed to mention how his vision of Nova Scotia being a leader in green hydrogen will be integrated into the non-existent provincial energy strategy. Without that, the EverWind project risks becoming one of a historic string of expensive industrial project failures in the province.
And Hughes wrote that before the Bear Head project was approved.
The math ain’t mathing.
2. Good luck getting the RCMP to cooperate
“Councillors are questioning whether the recommended integration of Halifax Regional Police and the RCMP is really possible,” reports Zane Woodford:
Halifax regional council received the new Policing Transformation Study during a committee of the whole meeting on Tuesday.
As the Halifax Examiner reported on Friday, the report found that HRM’s two police forces, Halifax Regional Police and RCMP, are not working together. It recommends keeping both Halifax Regional Police and RCMP, but better integrating the two forces…
Coun. Tim Outhit asked how likely it is that the province and the RCMP would work with HRM on this transformation.
Chief administrative officer Cathie O’Toole said it’s easy enough for council to control herself and Chief Dan Kinsella. If they’re not cooperating, she said council “has ways to deal with that.”
As for the RCMP, O’Toole said the timing is good after the recommendations of the Mass Casualty Commission.
“There is a willingness and a recognition that there needs to be change. If there’s ever an opportunity, I think this is probably it,” O’Toole said.
“If this is not it, the current provincial policing services agreement expires in 2032, and that means we’ve got a nine-year period to figure out what that renewal looks like.”
Speaking of the Mass Casualty Commission (MCC), you’ll recall that one of its recommendations was that the RCMP’s six-month Depot training centre in Regina be closed and replaced with a three-year university program required for all new recruits.
I spoke with MCC chair Michael MacDonald about that last month:
Bousquet: I have a very specific question, and that’s about the recommendation about closing the Depot and instituting a three-year university program. When I saw that, my first response was they’re not going to be able to recruit enough members if they did that. Did that factor into your considering? I mean, not to put too fine a point on it, but a three-year university program is a bit much for a lot of the young police recruits.
MacDonald: I would’ve thought just the opposite. I would have thought it would be an opportunity for the right recruits. I thought it would help in recruiting in the sense that you would get somebody who really wants to be a police officer and will be a very good police officer. It’s essentially modeled on the Finnish model. And as Leanne Fitch said in the press conference, six months at Depot was the 1800s, and it’s got to change. I don’t know. I guess it’s the optimism that I was born with. But I would like to think that that’s a nice career opportunity for the right people. And I look at it the other way, Tim — the chances of getting the wrong people are greatly increased and it’s like, ‘ah, six months, I’ll put up with it. Give me a gun.’ So, I think three years is a commitment.
It’s not the RCMP, but yesterday Premier Doug Ford announced that Ontario’s requirement that new recruits to the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) have a university degree has been eliminated. The change was made, reports Global, ” to get more police officers into communities, Doug Ford said.”
So, in Ontario anyway, a university degree requirement hurts police recruitment.
Joey Coleman reminds me that on March 29, I wrote this:
The Mass Casualty Commission’s final report will be issued tomorrow. It will likely be thoughtful and considered, and mostly ignored.
“Halifax regional councillors have reversed a plan to charge fees for street parking on Saturdays,” reports Zane Woodford.
Not to pick on her, but Amy Wttewaall, the executive director at Halifax Dance, illustrates the poor thinking about free parking. First, she argues it’s about customers:
“Saturday is our busiest day, full with our youngest students who are brought to class. And their grown-ups, as we like to call them, go spend an hour downtown, whether that’s at Cabin Coffee, the markets, or any of the other great downtown businesses,” Wttewaall said.
“The implementation of paid parking will be an additional burden and barrier on these members…
But then she says it’s about Halifax Dance’s employees:
…and the staff who attend and teach classes on Saturdays…
That’s just the issue: when on-street parking is free, the employees of the various business, who get to work before the customers do, will park at the closest parking spaces to their businesses and stay parked there all day long, until the end of their shifts, depriving customers of those nearby parking spaces. No amount of cajoling of employees will change this.
Besides revenue concerns (which Woodford details), metered parking encourages turnover, leaving more open spaces closer to businesses for customers who have relatively short (one- or two-hour) shopping errands.
People have weird ideas about parking. First of all, there’s plenty of available parking downtown, and usually closer to businesses than the parking space at the suburban mall is to the business inside the mall.
But downtown business owners also have a miscomprehension that the bulk of their business comes from people driving cars. It doesn’t. For most businesses, pedestrian traffic accounts for far more sales than do people driving in. And besides, it’s precisely the urban nature of the downtown shopping districts that attracts people coming in.
“When businesses come to us and tell us what they need, I just don’t feel right telling them, ‘No, you’re wrong,’” Mayor Mike Savage said.
Well, I’ll tell the businesses: you’re wrong.
There’s additionally an under-appreciation for the number of people/customers that come downtown via transit, and the possibility for still more by bicycle. I don’t drive downtown because why bother? There’s a bus that goes pretty much directly from my house to downtown every 15 minutes. Sure, if you live in Cole Harbour or whatever, it’s not as convenient, but you have the joys of living Cole Harbour, and besides, you can park in my Dartmouth neighbourhood for free and still catch the bus or ferry over.
One of the funniest things about discussions about downtown parking is that they’re dominated by people who rarely come downtown anyway, and the people who do shop downtown are ignored. And those people who do shop downtown? They’re mostly walking, taking transit, and cycling in.
“Last spring, while prepping to lead a Jane’s Walk to admire Italianate Style buildings in downtown Halifax, I became aware of some splendid photos of buildings that could have been on the tour,” writes Stephen Archibald. “The problem was the buildings had been replaced long, long ago. But now, through the magic of this blog post, I can take you on a little architectural ghost tour to enjoy these forgotten masterpieces.”
My favourite is the the photo above of the 1857 Bank of Nova Scotia building on Hollis Street, which Archibald annotates: “Notice the parking 1869 style: a handcart in the foreground, a wagon up the street, and that horse drawn delivery cart parked in the middle of the street.”
When I see horses in photos, I often think they’re sad (insert ‘long face’ joke here). That one seems to have a look of, ‘these bastards are making me stand in the middle of Hollis Street for a photo op when I’d much rather be romping around the meadow.’
Heritage Advisory Committee (Wednesday, 3pm, online) — agenda
Transportation Standing Committee (Thursday, 1pm, City Hall and online) — agenda
Location, location, location: Subcellular protein partitioning modulates proteostasis and lifespan(Wednesday, 4pm, Theatre A, Tupper Medical Building) — Louis Lapierre will talk
Joshua Whitehead in conversation with Arielle Twist (Wednesday, 7pm, Alumni Hall) — registration, ticket price, and more info here
In the harbour
06:00: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, arrives at Pier 41 from St. John’s
08:00: IT Infinity, offshore supply ship, sails from Pier 9 for sea
15:30: One Stork, container ship (145,251 tonnes), arrives at Pier 41 from Colombo, Sri Lanka
No arrivals or departures.
I had supper on Spring Garden Road last night, but no one is changing city policy to cater to my transportation desires.