HALIFAX: Nova Scotia Power (NSP) has reached a new renewable energy milestone and the company says the Strait area has been a valuable contributor to this achievement.

In a press release issued on June 6, NSP announced it delivered 30 per cent of Nova Scotia’s electricity from renewable sources like the Point Tupper biomass facility, the Point Tupper wind farm and a community-based wind project on Isle Madame. Together these projects generate enough electricity to power about 25,000 homes.

This is an image of the Point Tupper wind farm.

“In total, the renewable energy produced in Richmond County accounts for about eight per cent of total renewable generation in Nova Scotia, or just under 2.5 per cent of all electricity [renewable and non-renewable] in the province,” David Rodenhiser, director of communications and public affairs for NSP told The Reporter.

Rodenhiser said biomass co-generation facilities account for three per cent, which also includes: NSP’s Queens County biomass plant owned by Emera, and biomass facilities operated by Hefler Forest Products in Lower Sackville, Taylor Lumber in Middle Musquodoboit, and the Dalhousie University Agricultural Campus in Bible Hill.

When asked whether biomass can be seen as truly sustainable, despite criticism that it is not, Rodenhiser said it is designated as “renewable low-impact electricity” under Nova Scotia’s Renewable Electricity Regulations.

“The idea of using biomass to generate electricity is not unique to Nova Scotia,” he noted. “Biomass fuel makes up an important part of the generation mix in a number of jurisdictions in Europe and North America. In Denmark, biomass supplies up to 12 per cent of the country’s electricity.”

While the amount of energy produced from biomass varies daily, it totals from two to three per cent annually, Rodenhiser explained. As for claims the Point Tupper plant is using top grade wood, Rodenhiser responded that in 2018, 86 per cent of the fuel NSP purchased for its biomass plant was “wood bark and sawmill waste and only 14 per cent was fuel wood.” He said the biomass wood supply complies with chain of custody certifications established by the Forest Stewardship Council, the Sustainable Forestry Initiative and the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification.

“All biomass harvested for NSP’s biomass plant at [Point Tupper] must meet sustainability certifications,” Rodenhiser stated. “The fuel used in the [Point Tupper] plant is wood that has no other commercial use – generally hardwood that is crooked, knotty or diseased. It also must be stem wood, meaning that branches and roots are left to decompose and replenish the soil where the biomass is harvested.

To place it in context, Rodenhiser said biomass energy generation accounts for less than three per cent of the total forest harvest in Nova Scotia.

Pictured is Nova Scotia Power’s biomass co-generation facility in Point Tupper.

Over the past five years, annual rate increases have averaged below the rate of inflation for residential customers and most business customers, NSP noted, adding that at the same time, they achieved a 36 per cent reduction in carbon emissions from 2005 levels. By comparison, the COP21 Climate Conference in Paris called for a 30 per cent reduction from 2005 levels by 2030. NSP projects achieving a 58 per cent reduction by 2030, almost double the international climate conference’s goal.

“We have made greener, cleaner energy a priority,” NSP President and CEO Karen Hutt said. “We have 1,700 employees working in communities throughout Nova Scotia who take pride in delivering on our customers’ expectations that their electricity comes from more sustainable sources, and that the change is managed at an affordable pace.”

Today, wind power is the largest contributor to renewable energy in Nova Scotia, accounting for 18 per cent of electricity in 2018, a number the company claims is higher than most other provinces and states. Because the Point Tupper wind farm and the Isle Madame project are both privately-owned, Rodenhiser said any breakdown in how each is individually adding to NSP’s overall number would be “proprietary information.”

Due to the fact that renewable electricity is largely weather dependent – wind for wind power and rain or snow melt for hydroelectricity – the amount of renewable electricity being generated varies from day to day, and sometimes hour to hour, the company explained. It’s not unusual for 50 per cent or more of Nova Scotia’s electricity to be coming from renewable sources, NSP noted, adding that on other occasions, it can be closer to 10 per cent.

“Nova Scotians want a cleaner energy future for themselves and our children,” said Hutt. “But we know as we manage this change, we can’t overlook affordability. So, as we continue to achieve new records in renewable electricity, we remain focused on ensuring electricity prices stay predictable and affordable for our customers.”

Soon hydroelectricity will challenge for Nova Scotia’s top spot in renewable energy, thanks to the Maritime Link subsea transmission line to Newfoundland and Labrador. Accessing hydroelectricity from Newfoundland and Labrador will enable Nova Scotia Power to provide 40 per cent renewable energy in 2020, which will be another milestone achievement.

“Our next big step renewable energy is receiving hydro-electricity from Muskrat Falls via the Maritime Link starting next year,” Rodenhiser added.

To see where Nova Scotia’s electricity is coming from, visit: www.nspower.ca/todayspower.

Pictured is the turbine power Nova Scotia Power’s Isle Madame wind project.