Nova Scotia appears to be inching away from an East Coast power grid megaproject previously touted as the pathway for the province to get off fossil fuels. Nova Scotia currently generates nearly 40 per cent of its power from coal.
David Miller, the provincial clean energy director, told CBC the Atlantic Loop, a planned energy corridor that aims to connect the Atlantic provinces with hydropower from Quebec and Labrador, is “not viable for 2030. It is not necessary to achieve our goal.”
Instead, the province will focus on expanding its clean energy supply.
On Wednesday, Natural Resources and Renewables Minister Tory Rushton announced a clean power plan, which includes adding 1,000 more megawatts of onshore wind and 300 more megawatts of solar to reach the province’s goal of achieving an 80 per cent renewable grid by 2030.
The federal government mandated 2030 as the year by which provinces must shut down their coal-fired electricity plants.
In a statement, the Department of Natural Resources and Renewables said the announcement doesn’t mean Nova Scotia has completely abandoned the Atlantic Loop.
The department said it will continue “conversations with all of our partners about the potential of the Atlantic Loop to help us reach our 2050 goal of net zero.” In the meantime, it confirmed it will continue to pursue grid connections between Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, specifically to Point Lepreau, Atlantic Canada’s only nuclear power plant.
“This will enable greater access to New Brunswick, New England and Quebec. We need that connection regardless, and it could eventually become a piece of a loop project,” said the statement.
Today’s announcement was a marked departure from announcements this summer suggesting Nova Scotia was still actively pursuing the Atlantic Loop option. In August, Nova Scotia updated its climate plan, which said the province “continues to engage with Nova Scotia Power, the federal government, and our neighbouring provinces on the analysis of the Atlantic Loop and alternatives.”
Natural Resources + Renewables Minister Tory Rushton said the province's new clean power plan, which includes adding 1,000 more megawatts of onshore wind + 300 more megawatts of solar, will instead take N.S. to an 80 per cent renewable grid by 2030.
However, talks between the provinces and the federal government haven’t been smooth. In June, Premier Tim Houston criticized the federal government’s $4.5-billion investment in the project for requiring the money to be paid back. In April, Canada’s National Observer reported that the federal government was cutting Newfoundland and Labrador out of the Atlantic Loop project, even though they were included in prior conversations.
Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson called the Atlantic Loop "an ambitious project that was initially proposed by provincial partners intended to help enable them phase out coal and move to clean electricity" and that the federal government put forward a "generous offer" to help advance the project.
"The offer remains on the table," said Wilkinson in a statement.
He said the department has received confirmation from both N.S. and N.B. that the provinces are planning to phase out coal and reach their 2030 energy targets by focusing on the first phase of the Atlantic Loop – an intertie between the two provinces – and more renewables.
"Both provinces have indicated that these near-term initiatives can enable them to phase-out coal within the 2030 timeframe. Nova Scotia has also signaled that compliance with the proposed federal Clean Electricity Regulations can be feasible, which we welcome. Due diligence and rigorous analysis will be needed as we move forward," said Wilkinson.