While Nova Scotia’s new plan to reach emissions reduction targets by the end of the decade is welcomed by the opposition, all three parties say there needs to be more clarity on how the province can achieve its hefty goal.

Liberal environment critic Iain Rankin, Green Leader Anthony Edmonds and Susan Leblanc, the NDP’s environment and climate change spokesperson, agree more renewables are needed and building clean energy in the province is a positive step, but remain skeptical about the plan’s viability.

On Wednesday, Natural Resources and Renewables Minister Tory Rushton launched the 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. A press release from Friday says this uptick in clean energy, along with building an intertie with New Brunswick, will allow the province to surpass its goal and reach 88 per cent renewable energy before 2030.

Edmonds calls the amount of wind the project is planning to come online by 2030 “incredibly ambitious.” While he hopes the targets are achieved, he is concerned “our government may not have the necessary vision and ambition to actually see that through because the scale that we would have to build is significant.”

While Edmonds said Tim Houston’s PC Conservative government has made some positive decisions on climate, it has pushed back on important transitions, such as the coal phaseout and carbon pricing. While Houston might be avoiding the political risk that comes with signing on to the Atlantic Loop, Edmonds said the new proposal isn’t risk-free.

“I know megaprojects do have a bad reputation and [a] reputation for cost overruns and for risk, but I don't think we're avoiding a bigger project with this plan. It seems to me we're just sort of creating one megaproject for another,” he said.

Edmonds notes that the amount of solar and wind relies on “significant deployment of energy storage technologies, some of which are still sort of nascent. That could be risky.”

Rankin said he was glad to see the province include the intertie with New Brunswick in its plan, something he said he has been advocating for while in opposition, but added the government is facing a tight time crunch to build. He also said the plan needs a clear pathway to electrifying and bolstering public transportation.

“I'm still skeptical if they'll be able to retire all eight coal-fired generation plants, given we haven't really seen any progress in the last two years,” he said.

Green Party leader @ALEdmonds calls the amount of wind the project is planning to come online by 2030 “incredibly ambitious.”

Unless the PC government, which came to power in 2021, closes down coal plants within its first mandate, Rankin said he doesn’t see a pathway where the 2030 goal is feasible.

“If they realized earlier on that wind was the preferred approach, they should have started to tender more when they first got into office. It takes time,” he said.

As far as Leblanc is concerned, the power plan has many of the same gaps as the province’s climate plan released in 2022. While the province says it will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 53 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030 and reach net-zero emissions by 2050, it lacks incremental targets that would help keep the government accountable, she said.

“Without those, it's very difficult to see if we're on track and if we need to do things differently,” she explained.

Also, a gap is the lack of measures to make buildings and homes more energy efficient within the announcement, said Leblanc, which Rankin also stressed as essential.

“Like always, the devil’s in the details. We don't have the details. We don't have a price tag, we don't have clear timelines. And so we can't really evaluate if the plan will actually allow us to meet our targets,” said Leblanc.

Leaving behind the Loop

The strategy of significantly upping renewables in N.S. is new. Until last week, an East Coast power grid megaproject called the Atlantic Loop was touted as the pathway for the province to reach targets. The loop, which relies on hydro from Quebec and Labrador, would also shift N.S. away from coal, a fossil fuel which now supplies nearly 40 per cent of the province’s power. Now, both N.S. and New Brunswick said the full loop is no longer part of their short-term emission goals. However, the intertie is the western portion of the project, and could be expanded to build the loop at a later date, the N.S. Department of Natural Resources and Renewables said Wednesday.

The planned intertie will include a connection to Point Lepreau, Atlantic Canada’s only nuclear power plant, which is planning to host one small modular nuclear reactor (SMR) by 2030. However, the plant has faced increasing issues with reliability, and critics question if the SMR (technology that has never successfully been built and is criticized for its high price tag and the nuclear waste it leaves behind) will be ready in time.

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A plan that is comprehensive and includes all aspects of the transition away from fossil fuels is necessary for success. When the premier of NS rails against carbon pricing which climate experts agree is necessary in curbing emissions, he is failing to see that leaders of all political parties, at all levels of government, regardless of their political stripes, must work in cooperation with the goal of drastically reducing emissions the only priority.