Nova Scotia vulnerable to rising energy costs and supply shortfalls: report

June 7, 2007

HALIFAX: Nova Scotians need secure sources of energy if they are to meet the challenges of the twenty-first century, according to a report released today by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA). Energy Security in Nova Scotia reviews Nova Scotia’s existing sources and supplies of energy and proposes polices that would increase the province’s energy security. Nova Scotia, according to author Larry Hughes, “is particularly energy insecure, with about 90% of the energy consumed in the province obtained from sources outside the province, with most of that originating outside of Canada. The province’s reliance on imported energy makes it vulnerable to changes in world energy prices and supply shortages.”

The province is also vulnerable, according to Hughes, a Professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Dalhousie University, “because the pipelines that distribute oil and natural gas from Western Canada end in Central Canada, leaving the Maritimes without access to most of Canada’s petroleum supplies should energy shortages occur in the Nova Scotia. This, coupled with Canada’s NAFTA obligations to the US, means that access to Western Canadian energy supplies would require supply cuts across Canada. To compound the problem even further, Canada—unlike other members of the International Energy Agency—does not maintain a national 90-day reserve of petroleum. Energy security should be an issue, but federal and provincial government policies are doing little to address it.”

Part of the reason for this, the author points out, is that “Nova Scotia’s energy strategy, to the degree that there is one, is still based on increased supplies of natural gas. But the uncertainty surrounding the province’s offshore natural gas exploration and production, the lack of natural gas distribution infrastructure in Nova Scotia and the inability to find suppliers of LNG, make it clear that Nova Scotia should not base its future energy security on natural gas.”

The report states that to increase its energy security, the Province must adopt the three ‘R’s of energy security: review existing sources and demand, reduce demand, and replace imported energy with indigenous supplies. According to Hughes, “instead of just concentrating on supply, the Province should examine how the energy is used and match this with the appropriate supplies.”

As an example, the report shows that requiring a utility such as NSPI to incorporate intermittent energy sources—notably wind—into its mix can be problematic for the utility, often not leading to the energy savings predicted by its proponents. “Wind-electricity is more appropriate for space heating,” says Hughes, “Electric thermal storage units that can be charged intermittently—charging when the wind blows and discharging when there is no wind—is one way Nova Scotians can improve the province’s energy security. In the building sector, we must reduce energy consumption through, for example, improving building insulation, while replacing imported oil with sources such as solar and wind.”

The report provides numerous suggestions for reducing energy demand. For instance, in the transportation sector, by 2020, energy demand could be reduced 20% by steps such as decreasing the highway speed limits to 90km/hr, improving vehicle maintenance and fuel economy and increasing the use of public transport. Further decreases could be achieved through replacing road transport with rail. Energy security could also be improved regarding the demand for space heating: orienting new buildings on an east-west axis would allow solar energy to supply upwards of 75% of their heating demand.

The report contains examples of legislation and regulations that will be required if Nova Scotia is to improve its energy security and reduce the province’s greenhouse gas emissions.

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For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact John Jacobs at 477-1252 (cell 430-7461).

Energy Security in Nova Scotia is available at www.policyalternatives.ca.

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