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Atlantic Loop no longer part of Nova Scotia plan to hit 2030 renewable energy targets

As the costs of the Atlantic Loop project continue to grow, the provincial governments and utilities in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia have become increasingly skeptical of the project’s viability. Now, NB Power says the province is unlikely to derive significant benefits from the loop for at least a decade. Silas Brown reports. – Oct 11, 2023

The Atlantic Loop is no longer part of Nova Scotia’s plan to hit its 2030 renewable energy targets, Natural Resources and Renewables Minister Tory Rushton said Wednesday.

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The minister said costs have ballooned for the project that was supposed to wean Nova Scotia and New Brunswick off coal by providing hydroelectricity from Quebec and Newfoundland and Labrador.

“Eventually there probably will be an Atlantic loop concept that’s all put together as pieces of the puzzle,” Rushton told reporters Wednesday. “But at the time and point right now, it’s not something the ratepayers in Nova Scotia can afford. Quite frankly, we can’t keep the 2030 targets with it.”

Under a federal climate change plan, Nova Scotia has committed to ending the use of coal by 2030, and Nova Scotia’s targets have it using at least 80 per cent renewable energy by the end of this decade.

Rushton said that since 2020 capital costs for the Atlantic Loop have tripled — to more than $9 billion.

The hike in projected costs and the lack of commitment from Quebec to supply hydro power has made the project no longer viable to meet the province’s targets, he said. “We never heard a solid commitment from the Quebec side that they could provide the electrons to Nova Scotia on a regular basis.”

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Without the loop, he said Nova Scotia will meet and surpass its 80 per cent renewable energy target with new wind and solar projects and continued imports of hydroelectricity from Labrador through the existing Maritime Link.

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Nova Scotia plans to increase onshore wind generation to power 50 per cent of the province’s electricity, up from 20 per cent. It will also build on the existing weak transmission link between Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. That will involve a new line between Onslow, N.S., and Salisbury, N.B., and provide greater access to energy from New Brunswick, New England and Quebec. The Department of Natural Resources and Renewables estimates that the new line and extension would cost $1.4 billion and could be completed by 2029.

Provincial NDP leader Claudia Chender said the plan put forward Wednesday includes many positive renewable energy endeavours, but lacked the hard deadlines and details she wanted to see.

“I was left with a lot of questions,” Chender said in an interview after attending a presentation on the clean power strategy held by government Wednesday.

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“I think the logic is sound, but without specific timelines and details and technical sheets and, most importantly, pricetags, I can’t provide an opinion about whether or not it’s doable,” she said.

Katharine Turner, an energy co-ordinator with Halifax-based Ecology Action Centre, also said the plan is lacking specifics and deadlines, which are needed to keep government accountable.

Turner said she has major questions about the land-use planning involved in the wind project development and how it will be possible without interfering with the province’s protected area goals. She is also looking for details on the strategy the province will use to consult communities affected by new turbine developments and how these projects will uphold Mi’kmaq sovereignty and interests.

Liberal Iain Rankin criticized the Progressive Conservative government for moving slowly on green initiatives.

“They’ve been in government for two years and they haven’t built one megawatt of renewable energy and we’re two years closer to that deadline that is coming up close in 2030,” Rankin told reporters Wednesday. “I still don’t believe that all coal plants will be closed by that time.”

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In 2016, Ottawa announced coal-fired electricity would be phased out across Canada by 2030, a move estimated to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by nearly 100 million tonnes over the following two decades.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 11, 2023.

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