STELLARTON – The province is moving in a direction that will eventually see the coal-powered Nova Scotia Power Plant in Trenton closed and more renewable energy powering Pictou County homes.
Business people, municipal leaders and opposition party members were in attendance Monday as Energy Minister Charlie Parker spoke in Stellarton about the direction the province is moving with regards to electricity.
"We know that rising electricity rates are top of mind for everyone," said Parker. "We are not going to sit back and do nothing to address the issue. We are taking action that will make a real difference."
He said the province has already removed the provincial portion of the HST from basic home electricity and talked about the renewable energy projects in this area already including several large wind projects.
"We're very pleased to be creating the right conditions for these investments," he said. "These projects will help stabilize electricity prices in Nova Scotia and benefit the environment."
Parker and Department of Energy deputy minister Murray Coolican also provided information and an overview of the Muskrat Falls/Maritime Link project.
The project will provide Nova Scotians with a reliable source of clean energy at predictable, stable rates for 35 years. They hired a consultant and, based on the research they got back, believe it is the lowest long-term cost option for the province to meet federal environmental requirements. It will give the province a second connection to the North American electricity grid and therefore more options for purchasing energy in the future.
The Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project has been approved by the province but still needs to be reviewed by the Utility Review Board. Parker said there will be a decision from them by July whether it is the way to go and what the rate should be.
Parker said the Nova Scotia’s contributions to the Maritime Link will see the average homeowners power bill raise about $1.50 a month for the next five years, but stated his belief that it was the best option.
Parker stressed the importance of the province getting off of “dirty coal.”
“This province has depended for far too long on coal,” he said.
That will mean that the plant in Trenton will likely close.
“There’s no particular date in mind, but we do know that plant will be phased out,” he said.
There is also the possibility that it could be converted to another type of energy form, however.
With several opposition party members in the room, Parker defended the province’s approach and said that the opposition’s proposal that rates should be freezed wasn’t practical.
While none of the Progressive Conservative candidates spoke during the meeting, Pictou East candidate Tim Houston offered his thoughts afterward.
Houston agreed it was important to look at ways to diversify the province's power supply, but said he has concerns about the NDP pushing forward with the Muskrat Falls project without doing its homework.
"Nova Scotians can't afford for the NDP to get this wrong,” he said. “We still don't know how much this electricity will cost when it reaches our homes and businesses and it has not been fairly compared to all alternatives.”
Houston said he agrees with an attendee who wondered how the government could say this project will bring us rate stability for 35 years when it will only provide eight to 10 per cent of overall consumption.
"The NDP is pushing headlong into a deal that our kids will have to live with and just because the project has merits, doesn’t mean the NDP signed a good deal for Nova Scotians."
Parker is travelling throughout the province to spread information about the energy plan.