Sunday, June 28, 2009

Mr. President , Take The Power Over Renewable Energy Away From The Power Companies...Been Saying It For Years_Green Earl

Columnist Ralph Surette

President Obama: Please read this article.


Mr. Premier: Take renewable energy out of Nova Scotia Power’s hands


Sat. Jun 27 - 4:46 AM

THE MERITS of a proposed forest-fed biomass power plant at the Strait of Canso is being disputed before the Utility and Review Board. We should not miss the larger meaning of this event: It gives us another glimpse into our failed alternative energy policy, and should remind us that changing it is as big a challenge for the new government as fixing health care.

Nova Scotia Power is desperate to get some production going — by burning the forest or otherwise — because it’s failing to meet its deadlines under the 2007 renewable energy regulations: five per cent renewables by next year, 20 per cent by 2013. It’s failing because its wind power strategy is failing. That’s failing because NSP chased most windmill contractors out with its command-and-control strategy.

The recession is no doubt part of it, as NSP claims, but one source in the industry tells me Nova Scotia has gained a reputation elsewhere as one of the worst places for wind entrepreneurs to do business.

The root of the failure, however, is deeper. The real culprit is government. The MacDonald government especially, but others before it, had no energy policy beyond regulations and up-to-date buzzwords. Real energy policy was entrusted to NSP, which was privatized some 15 years ago and whose obligation is to its shareholders, not to the public interest.

Here’s my first suggestion for the Dexter government: Get rid of the renewables deadlines, and let NSP off the hook. NSP knows nothing of alternative energy, didn’t want it to begin with, and all it’s doing in its desperation is making things worse.

If NSP fails to meet its targets, it will be fined $500,000 a day. And what good will that do since, as a regulated monopoly, these fines will presumably be paid by you and me on our power bills?

More importantly, take back energy policy and control of renewables. Create a body to develop alternative energy and conservation as one, and an overarching power authority to mesh these efforts with NSP, which will be left to do what it knows best: run the power plants and the grid, adjust the transmission system to the requirements of new alternative power sources, and negotiate with Newfoundland and New Brunswick power people on Atlantic-wide grid issues.

Check out how they’re doing it in Ontario and other out-front jurisdictions, where "feed-in" laws or "standard offer contracts" are in effect — in which the utility is required to take power produced by entrepreneurs at a fixed rate, no haggling. Wherever it’s been tried, there’s been an explosion of energy entrepreneurship and new jobs.

The NSP system of calling tenders one project at a time didn’t work elsewhere, and it hasn’t worked here.

Indeed, its critics accuse NSP of wanting to fail and drive out the wind entrepreneurs so it could take over wind energy itself, thus extending its monopoly over alternate energy as well as regular energy. This authority was actually given it by the MacDonald government a few months ago.

The NDP did promise feed laws, but without enthusiasm. I heard Premier Darrell Dexter say, a few weeks ago, that he was worried that feed-in laws cause power rates to rise.

This is true; but wherever it has happened, surveys show the public is happy to pay a couple of dollars more a month because the positive effects are so visible: pollution down, conservation increased, jobs created, rural economies stimulated, energy imports reduced, small entrepreneurs multiplying.

As for the New-Page/Bio-Gen biomass generator at issue at the Strait, the problem is not so much the project itself as that it’s being rushed without any policy direction.

The main objection to it is based on what it will do to the forest (and we’ve just been dinged as the worst clearcutters in the country by a national forest institute, Global Forest Watch Canada), although some environmentalists say it might be supportable at half the proposed size (30 megawatts instead of 60).

And there’s the timely point made by Dalhousie energy expert Larry Hughes: Making electricity from wood is wasteful. Wood, in pelletized form, would be far more valuable as home fuel than as electricity, as we await new oil price blowouts.

Finally, here’s a specific example of what’s not working. Marwood Inc. is a wood products firm that I wrote about April 18. They have enough wood waste to produce two to three megawatts to power their three plants; but to be viable, they have to be able to sell the surplus to NSP.

But NSP has no time for small stuff. "It would be nice to get a contract similar to what New-Page is being offered," sighs manager Fenton Travis, as he awaits NSP’s call that doesn’t come.

That call has to come — but from a new public energy authority.


Ralph Surette is a veteran freelance journalist living in Yarmouth County.


16 votes

traispealot wrote:
The NDP won the election on a promise to take the tax off of energy and make it cheaper for the consumer. Wind energy is enormously expensive and promoting wind power is not going to make what we pay for electricity any cheaper. The wholesale price that NSP would have to pay wind producers is higher than they currently sell it for. So who ultimately is going to eat that loss?

danby wrote:
Perhaps it is time to get rid of a monoply and have the users decide who they want to purchase power from instead of this company and boards making decisons for taxpayers and what they will pay they can no longer pay??Perhaps it is time they paid their own fines and overhead costs from profits instead of fees especially the idea to have users pay for what is NOT used by surcharges now??? What we use only we pay, period.That is the last straw to hear from this monoply.People are going to make their own choices if they can't afford what they have.We are in recession and you can't get blood from a rock.Let them pay their own investments since they get the profits.Enough is enough renewable or not too many are hurting thanks to their apparent constant increases.People use others sources and power costs still does not go down to reflect it???They will lose money and have to because we as users just can't afford them anymore.That is a given just ike their increases.

dsydney wrote:
You could put a windmill in everyone's backyard and the grid couldn't take it. The grid needs to be upgraded to the tune of a billion plus dollars- Who's going to pay for that- where will Ralph and his NDP friends find that money- One way or another we will pay either through higher electricity or higher taxes. Reality Check here Ralph- you traded Rodney MacDonald for Darrell Hamm- ain't nothing gonna change

Here wrote:
Well like most people I have not the faintest idea about energy. I do know I wouldn't "happily pay a couple dollars more" for anything I don't have a choice in. We are too North for solar, it would be seasonal augmentation at best. The wind blows but not like on the prairies, so that is unreliable, expensive, and mechanical. Burning wood? Yeah that's why homes are full of wood burning electricty generators. What is odd though is that we spend billions getting rid of compostable and biodegradable products, including sewage, that gives off heat and gas. Oddly we never think about oil from algae farms, or burning refuse. I guess it is tidal, at least the tides are consistent. Not as consistent as nuclear but in a luddite society like NS this is likely the way to go. Maybe the province could allow it to be a Halifax city initiative. With any luck, in a couple hundred years, we'd have a consultant's report.

mact wrote:
One of the reasons that NSP has had free rein is due to the fact that they were given it by Donald Cameron's tories when it was privatized. One of the commitments by Cameron at the time was that investors would be guaranteed a good return on their money. So far to date, we, the tax payers, have paid for NSP twice over. Once when we built it up as a crwon corporation, twice with investment money when it was privatized. The money from acquisition of shares was supposed to be used to pay down the provincial debt. That did not happen either. The first budget that Cameron handed down after that he stated that they had miscalculated the spending for the previous year. Now it looks like we will be paying for it again when we will be taxed on our bills for upgrades or when the government subsidizes the upgrades. It looks like the share capital will not be used to cover off capital works projects within that outfit. Its time for some drastic measures to rein in that organization.

rholmes wrote:
Ralph Note today's CH article wherein NB and Que are "initiating discussions etc. to bring Renewable Energy to Atlantic Canada" This is the 21st Century. Past Governments in NS have failed miserably to recognize that RE exists to the West and North, and needs to be connected sooner rather than later. I agree, the rate payer and tax payer will have to cough up. The New Energy Economy will not come about solely from private sector ownership of the Grid, but Good Government is about providing incentives for progress to be made. The economic benefits will be hugh. Robert in the Tar Sands


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