Backwoods Nova Scotia not going green

Emera Inc, which is Nova Scotia Power’s parent company, is partnering with Maine Aqua Ventus and will build floating wind turbines off the coast of Maine. According to the CBC it will work with local contractors and manufacturers in Maine to generate local economic benefit, create and keep Maine jobs in Maine, and provide renewable energy now and in the future…. for Maine… not Nova Scotia…

Sources of Nova Scotia’s energy use can be broken down like this:

Image courtsey of nspower.caSolid fuel making up 66% include coal, pet coke, natural gas, and oil. According to the website, “We operate four power plants that use coal and pet coke, another that runs on natural gas or oil, three oil-burning combustion turbines, one tidal and 33 hydro stations, two wind farms, two sites with single wind turbines, and a biomass power plant. We also purchase renewable electricity from independent power producers throughout the province and import electricity through a transmission line connecting Nova Scotia with New Brunswick. Together, these sources make up what’s known as our fuel or generation mix, which can change from year-to-year based on factors like fuel prices and environmental regulations.

Articles in the news with the Liberal government announcing our power is being supplemented by 11% renewables includes the 4% of the 60 megawatt biomass power plant in Port Hawkesbury. But as David G. Patriquin (Professor of Biology, Dalhousie University, retired) pointed out, “Energy generation from forest biomass is commonly assumed to be “carbon neutral” and therefore, it is argued or assumed, substituting forest biomass for fossil fuels reduces carbon dioxide emissions. However, that is true only if there is some carbon capture involved or forests are fertilized to increase productivity. These are not components of forest biomass harvesting envisaged for N.S., at least not in the short term (2015).”

The Liberal government amended the Renewable Electricity Regulations today, April 8 2016, to allow for more flexibility in managing the electricity system and to reduce the use of primary forest biomass for generating electricity. During the province’s electricity review, Nova Scotians’ expressed concerns about the use of primary forest biomass for electricity. The Ecology Action Centre sent out a press release on April 11 2016 saying they, “applaud regulatory change for Biomass Plant, calls for  shutdown of Port Hawkesbury Biomass Plant by 2018.”

From their press release they say, “This is a good and necessary first step in addressing the issue of forest biomass” says EAC Wilderness Coordinator Raymond Plourde. ” To call it  “green energy” is a fundamentally fraudulent claim. There is nothing environmentally friendly about cutting down and burning our forests to generate highly expensive and terribly inefficient electricity. Primary harvesting for forest biomass does nothing to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, is adding significant damage to our already highly stressed forest ecosystems and it needs to be dialed way back.”

The NS government said they were meeting 50% target reduction in clear cutting but: REALITY CHECK – The 50% clear-cutting reduction target seems to have been abandoned and the percentage of our crown forests being clear-cut is up. On Aug. 31 2016 the government approved the applications of Northern Pulp and five other companies to spray more than 2,600 hectares of woodland with VisionMax, a herbicide containing the active ingredient of 47% glyphosate. The idea is to retard the hardwood growth allowing for more biomass and profit for companies that depend on softwood. German toxicologist Dr Peter Clausing has accused the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) for misleading information over glyphosate and the high-level dispute over whether or not the pesticide causes cancer.

The Nova Scotia Liberal government gets a failing grade on their “11% renewables”, and an “F” for spraying what may be a poisonous chemical over our woodlands.

Then… there is…

The Donkin Coal Mine

Premier Stephen McNeil welcomes the Donkin Coal Mine being re-opened. He says at present, a lot of the coal being burned in Nova Scotia is imported from South America. He claims there are technologies today that can be employed to make it a cleaner source of energy. It isn’t understood how this wouldn’t increase green house gas emissions. This is partly why McNeil opposes the carbon tax as outlined by the federal Liberal government. Besides methane, it would release a combination of greenhouse gases.

According to the CBC, “Nova Scotia’s Liberal Premier Stephen McNeil has long argued that people in his province already pay a carbon tax of sorts because it has transitioned quickly away from coal-fired power generation to renewable energy sources such as wind. Coal still accounts for 56 per cent of the province’s energy mix, but that is a far cry from as early as 2000 when it accounted for virtually all of the province’s power supply.”

It would seem the Donkin Coal Mine contradicts the Premier’s comments and there are safety issues as well, that have been given little thought. In 1992, the Westray/explosion disaster in Nova Scotia killed 26 miners.  The owner of the Donkin Mine, Chris Cline, has a questionable safety background as evident from the video from Global News. (If you’re reading this article in your email, you will have to click through to the video.)

In a previous article it says the government will make (besides taxes) about $1.30 for every ton of coal produced at the mine. Perhaps safety is being overlooked.

Offshore Development

For the third time in four years there haven’t been any successful exploration bids for offshore drilling. It would seem that the government doesn’t understand that the province doesn’t have sufficient resources to make this a profitable venture. Now, according to the Local Express ” the provincial Energy Department called for proposals from consultants to gather and report data on the geology and potential for oil and gas under the waters off Cape Breton. Provincial documents suggest a new Sydney Basin play fairway analysis will be done early in 2017 in preparation for the possibility of calling for bids from exploration companies.”

Nova Scotia needs a premiere and government that is progressively thinking and developing our resources towards a greener transition.  If you remove biomass from what our government considers as renewable energy, we are left with seven percent. Compared to other places in the world we are far behind. Costa Rica with a population of 5 million people is really green: Hydroelectric (90%), geothermal, wind (and others). Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Germany with 1.65 million people: net greater than 100% with wind, solar, and other renewables. Plus there are numerous other examples of what can be attained with a progressive thinking government. Applying 20th century solutions to 21st century problems, is doomed to fail.