Over the past several years, Nova Scotians have been subjected to a stream of hyperbole regarding the Sable Offshore Energy Project (SOEP). In the various energy strategy documents, Premier Hamm touts Nova Scotia as a "world-class player in the energy industry", Halifax as "North America's newest energy capital", and that offshore energy will "help us build a strong, diversified economy".
Although one can't argue that there is gas 'out there', it is instructive to take a moment to consider the size of Nova Scotia's resource and what is being done with it. According to various provincial energy strategy documents, the proven reserves (reserves currently being exploited) are estimated to be 6.3 trillion cubic feet; this is about 8 percent of Canada's established marketable natural gas.
In addition to proven reserves, there are also potential reserves (reserves that the geology of the area suggest may exist). When discussing potential reserves, it should be noted that these are best-guess projections (some being more optimistic than others are); for example, several exploration companies estimate Nova Scotia's total potential reserves to be 20 trillion cubic feet. At the other extreme, various investment analysts (as opposed to petroleum geologists) project potential reserves of anywhere from 40 to 50 trillion cubic feet! Even the most optimistic prediction of 50 trillion cubic feet of offshore natural gas is still only 8 percent of Canada's ultimate potential resource of 593 trillion cubic feet.
Norway is repeatedly being used as an example of a country that has established a viable offshore natural gas industry. It has an estimated 123 trillion cubic feet of natural gas reserves -- six to twenty times more than Nova Scotia's.
The province's total potential reserves of 20 trillion cubic feet seems like a very large number, until it is compared with U.S. energy consumption, which in 1999 was 21.4 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. By this reckoning Nova Scotia's potential reserves would have come close to supplying U.S. natural gas needs for about one year. The U.S. Energy Information Administration projects that by 2020, the U.S. will consume as much as 36.1 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, meaning that Nova Scotia's potential natural gas reserves of would supply the U.S. market for about six months.
Another way of discussing a natural gas field is in terms of its reserve-to-production (or R/P) ratio. The R/P ratio divides the known reserves by the production, giving an estimate of the length of time the reserves would last if production were to continue at that level. For example, according to the most recent energy strategy documents, Norway has 123 trillion cubic feet of reserves, while their daily production is 3.8 billion cubic feet; giving an R/P ratio of about 88 years. On the other hand, Nova Scotia has reserves of 6.3 trillion cubic feet and a daily production of 0.5 billion cubic feet, giving an R/P ratio of 33 years. Nova Scotia's R/P ratio will halve (to 16 years) with the proposed doubling of pipeline capacity (from 0.5 to 1 billion cubic feet a day).
Contrary to what the Premier has said about Sable natural gas, we are a small producer in the North American market. The primary reason a small field like Sable is being exploited is due to our proximity to the U.S. market.
Published: 24 January 2002 (Daily News)
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Late last December, the Organization for Petroleum Exporting Countries (or OPEC as it is more commonly known) announced that it had reached agreement with a group of non-OPEC producers to reduce global oil production output by 462,500 barrels a day. This announcement, combined with OPEC's own reduction of 1.6 million barrels a day, immediately caused the price of crude oil to jump, and despite claims that it would not happen, raised the price of gasoline in Nova Scotia.
When the price of oil rises, it affects almost all sectors of Nova Scotia's economy. Increased oil prices raise the price of home heating, hurting the elderly and those on fixed incomes. It also raises the price of transportation of both goods and people. Nova Scotia's economy is built on access to cheap oil -- when the price goes up, all Nova Scotians feel the impact.
So how dependent is Nova Scotia on oil? The short answer is 'very' -- almost 60 percent of the province's energy demand is met by refined petroleum products: gasoline and diesel (for transportation) and fuel oil (residential heating, electrical generation, and commercial/industrial demand). The provincial transportation sector is almost entirely dependent upon petroleum products and is responsible for over half of the province's petroleum consumption. In 1999, cars and light trucks accounted for about one third of the petroleum consumed in Nova Scotia.
There are a number of worrying trends associated with this reliance on petroleum for private transportation. Perhaps the most serious is the projected cost of energy in the transportation sector. According to Natural Resources Canada (NRCan), transportation fuel costs are expected to rise by 40 percent between 1990 and 2010, while average household incomes will decline slightly. The increase in prices should not be surprising, given the world's increasing demand for oil and the corresponding decline in supply.
Last year's high fuel prices caused many Nova Scotians, typically those on fixed incomes, to drive less. If the price of fuel were to reach a level where people could not afford to drive at all, some form of government action would be expected. However, if Nova Scotians believe that their provincial government has anything more than a passing interest in this issue, they would be sadly mistaken.
The provincial transportation agenda has been outlined in three documents. The first two, "The Way Ahead" and "Opportunities for Prosperity", focus on the transportation of goods, primarily for export or for transshipment to the United States and the rest of Canada. What little is said about the transportation of people is restricted to a 10-year plan for "rehabilitating and upgrading highways" and the upgrading of airports; however, concern is expressed about the erosion of local bus lines within the province and the rise of unregulated van services.
The third document, "Seizing the Opportunity", is the recently released provincial energy strategy which includes a brief section on transportation (about nine of the document's 288 pages). Despite the availability of NRCan's fuel cost projections, the energy strategy does not address the issue of rising transportation fuel costs. Instead, the energy strategy's answer to any problems associated with transportation is "energy efficiency", as illustrated by the strategy's two transportation objectives:
Energy efficiency in transportation can be achieved through technological advances, or modal shifts (changing transportation modes), or a combination of both.
New fuels such as hydrogen and the application of fuel cells to private transportation are examples of potential technological advances that would not necessarily result in greater energy efficiency, but might help improve air quality. With the exception of some laboratory-based biological systems, hydrogen is a product of other energy sources. It can be obtained from gasoline, but with the cost of gasoline projected to rise over the next decade, hydrogen from gasoline will be an expensive fuel for many Nova Scotians. Another source of hydrogen is natural gas, but since there is no longer a requirement for natural gas to be distributed across the province, access to natural gas for transportation will likely be problematic. (Of course, all this assumes that the driver has access to a vehicle with a fuel cell or a retrofitted internal combustion engine.)
Similarly, raising public awareness about the energy efficiency benefits of technological changes does little good if people cannot obtain or afford the alternatives to the existing transportation system.
The second way of achieving energy efficiency in transportation is through modal shifts. As the name suggests, a modal shift involves moving away from one mode of transportation to another; this can be as 'simple' as giving up the automobile in favour of walking, biking, or busing. Since modal shifts away from the automobile often use less energy per person than do technological changes, modal shifts are usually more energy efficient.
The provincial energy strategy document recognizes that energy efficiency can be met using either of these methods. The document describes federal research efforts in new fuels and fuel cells. The document also describes municipal efforts to reduce congestion and improve public transportation.
The provincial efforts are less heartening and the document admits as much by stating, "the province recognizes that provincial decisions on provincial highway construction can impact municipal plans for land use and traffic flow ... new infrastructure is costly and increases vehicular traffic in the urban areas, with attendant increased fuel use, air emissions, congestion, and inefficient energy use by commuters."
The energy strategy document goes on to state that "it (the province) will seek ways to work with the municipalities and other interested parties to find ways to meet their transportation needs." If this is the case and the provincial government is serious about improving energy efficiency in the transportation of Nova Scotians, it will encourage modal shifts, through:
If NRCan's projections are correct, December's fuel price rise will be the first of many over the next decade. The provincial government must start now to initiate the steps that will create a transportation system that ensures the mobility of all Nova Scotians, regardless of the price of oil.
Published: 3 February 2002 (Sunday Herald)
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Climate change and greenhouse gas emissions have been discussed in Canadian political circles for almost 15 years. In 1988, at the World Conference on the Changing Atmosphere, Prime Minister Mulroney agreed to reduce Canada's carbon dioxide emissions by 20% of 1988 levels by 2005. In 1992, as part of the UNFCCC (UN Framework Convention on Climate Change), Canada, one of the developed countries, agreed to stabilize its greenhouse gas emissions at 1990 levels by the year 2000. In 1997, at Kyoto, Canada agreed to a reduction commitment that would see its greenhouse gas emissions 6% below those of 1990 by the period 2008-2012.
Nova Scotia's politicians and bureaucrats have been involved in federal-provincial roundtables on climate change from 1997 onwards. In late 1999, public consultations were held throughout Nova Scotia with the intention of creating a 'Framework for Climate Change Strategy in Nova Scotia'.
Last December, the provincial energy strategy document, "Seizing the Opportunity", was released and included a 14-page section describing the provincial government's plans for combating climate change. Strange as it may seem, in January 1992, the Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources held a workshop on global warming (as climate change was then called). Throughout April and May 1992, consultations were held with 'stakeholder' groups, developing the provincial 'action strategy' on global warming. A report on the consultations and recommendations for action was published a year later, in March 1993.
There has been a nine-year gap between the 1993 global warming strategy and the 2001 climate change strategy; however, recommended actions for reducing Nova Scotia's greenhouse gas emissions are remarkably similar. For example, educating the public and municipal governments, improving energy efficiency, and developing new technologies appear in both reports as important first steps in which to reduce emissions.
However, while the 1993 report proposed many possible actions, the 2001 energy strategy document is much more vague. For example, in 1993, there were numerous recommendations on how to reduce emissions in the transportation sector, including the incorporation of transportation into land-use planning and encourage public transportation. The 2001 document does little other than state that the province will work with the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities to "promote awareness leading to action at reducing emissions ... in transportation."
Had the province followed the recommendations made in 1993, Nova Scotia would have been well on its way to becoming a world leader in the field of greenhouse gas emission abatement. It would also have put Nova Scotia in a much stronger position to demand emissions reductions from other provinces and countries. As it now stands, Nova Scotians are as responsible as anyone else in North America for the projected changes to the province's coastline, agricultural, and forestry industries.
Of course, the provincial government will argue that actions have been taken: since 1998, the province has participated in a number of federally funded Climate Change Action Fund (CCAF) projects, typically limited duration pilot projects and workshops. Despite this, "Seizing the Opportunity" describes the projects as "successes", although no criteria for success are given and the fact that greenhouse gas emissions in Nova Scotia have risen since 1998.
More than pilot projects and workshops are required if Nova Scotia's greenhouse gas emissions are to be reduced -- it will take leadership, something Nova Scotia is sadly lacking. Premier Hamm's siding with Premier Klein over the issue of Canada's ratification of the Kyoto Protocol is a clear demonstration of this lack of leadership.
Kyoto is to be implemented within the next six to ten years (2008-2012). Nova Scotia's record on climate change over the past ten years and the provincial government's current and projected activities would suggest that little will be done.
Published: 5 March 2002 (Daily News)
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Like most of the western world, Nova Scotia relies heavily on oil. Almost 60 percent of the province's energy demand is met by refined petroleum products: gasoline and diesel (for transportation) and fuel oil (residential heating, electrical generation, and commercial/industrial demand). The provincial transportation sector is almost entirely dependent upon petroleum products and is responsible for over half of the province's petroleum consumption. In 1999, cars and light trucks accounted for about one third of the petroleum products consumed in Nova Scotia.
There are three reasons why Nova Scotians should be worried about this dependence on petroleum for transportation.
First, the projected increase in the cost of energy in the transportation sector. Over the past few weeks, there has been a steady increase in the price of gasoline and diesel fuel. According to Natural Resources Canada (NRCan), transportation fuel costs are expected to rise by 40 percent between 1990 and 2010, while average household incomes will decline slightly. The increase in prices should not be surprising, given the world's increasing demand for oil, the corresponding decline in supply, OPEC's resolve to limit production, and uncertainty in the Middle East.
Second, the provincial government's proposed increase in the motive fuel tax to pay for $3.4 billion worth of primary and secondary highway improvements over the next decade (about $342 million a year). In 2000-01, the province collected about $263 million in road-related taxes ($201 million from the motive fuel tax and $62 million from the Registry of Motor Vehicles). The Department of Transportation and Public Works spent $124 million of these taxes on the maintenance of existing highways and bridges, snow and ice control, salaries and benefits, and ferries. If support from the federal government is not forthcoming, provincial road-related tax revenues (from fuel taxes, registration fees, and, potentially, toll roads) will have to increase between 30% and 83% to meet the proposed highway improvements.
Third, an increase in the cost of imported goods. Any increase in the price of oil won't only affect Nova Scotia, it will affect all sectors of the world's economy. The cost of producing goods will rise, as will the cost of transporting them to Nova Scotia. This will be reflected in the price of many items, most notably food from the grocery store.
The provincial government's transportation 'policy' is outlined in three documents. The first two, "The Way Ahead" and "Opportunities for Prosperity" focus on the transportation of goods, primarily for export or for transshipment to the United States and the rest of Canada. Little is said about the transportation of people, other than the $3.4 billion road improvements scheme and the upgrading of airports (both of which are primarily intended to improve the transportation of goods). However, concern is expressed about the erosion of local bus lines within the province and the rise of unregulated van services.
The third document, "Seizing the Opportunity", is the recently released provincial energy strategy which includes a brief section on transportation (about nine of the document's 288 pages). Despite the current and expected increases in the price of oil, the energy strategy does not address the issue of rising transportation fuel costs. Instead, the energy strategy's answer to any problems associated with transportation is "energy efficiency", notably improving energy efficiency in transportation and educating the public about the need to improve energy efficiency in transportation.
As oil continues to rise in price and road-related taxes are imposed to pay for the $3.4 billion road improvements scheme, the current provincial transportation will force change and undue hardships on many Nova Scotians. First, those on fixed income will drive less, as was the case last year when fuel prices increased sharply. Second, the cost of imported food and other goods will rise, requiring many people to make hard choices as to how they survive. Third, those living in rural areas unable to afford the cost of driving will move to urban centers, perpetuating the current trend of rural depopulation as highlighted in the most recent census data. Fourth, the transportation problems of urban centers (notably Halifax) will be further compounded with the arrival of more people from rural areas.
There is little that Nova Scotians can do to influence the price of oil and few will argue that the provincial highway system is in need of repair. However, if the provincial government were to adopt a sustainable transportation policy that offered alternatives to what is in place today, Nova Scotians would be better off, both economically and environmentally.
By applying some of the road-related fuel taxes to community-based transportation systems, people could remain in their rural communities yet still have mobility. By adopting land-use policies that reduce urban and suburban sprawl, new housing developments will be more 'transit friendly' and valuable agricultural land will be saved. By requiring that all goods and services bought by the government are transported in the most energy efficient way possible. In addition, if Nova Scotians were to encourage their local grocery stores to 'buy locally' whenever possible, the transportation component in the cost of food would be reduced and local farming communities would be helped.
The price of oil is going to rise over the next decade affecting all areas of transportation. Without a sustainable transportation policy for the province, Nova Scotians can expected a very rough ride.
Published: 2 April 2002 (Daily News)
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In an interview regarding Nova Scotia's recent two-cent a litre gasoline tax increase (Daily News, 6 April), taxi driver Bob Glovin asked "So if the tax is only two cents, why is (the increase) 2.3 cents?"
The answer is in how the federal and provincial governments tax gasoline and diesel fuel. The price of an untaxed litre of gasoline (or diesel fuel) is set by the oil companies, to this, the federal government adds a ten-cent excise tax and the provincial government adds its motive fuel tax (now 15.5 cents). On top of this, both levels of government apply the 15 percent HST.
As a result, the two-cent a litre tax increase announced in the provincial budget turned into a 2.3 cent a litre increase -- a $1.6 million windfall for the province.
Published: Daily News
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Electricity can be generated from a variety of sources. In Nova Scotia, Nova Scotia Power expects to produce electricity from the following sources in 2002: coal (60 percent), petroleum coke (15 percent), natural gas (12 percent), and renewables (that is, hydroelectric and tidal, 8 percent).
The cost of electricity depends upon a variety of factors, including the cost of building the power station, maintaining it, and, not surprisingly, the cost of fuel (which, if imported, is affected by the exchange rate). The cost of production is directly related to the fuel source: coal-generated electricity is typically cheaper than oil, which in turn, is usually cheaper than natural gas (hydroelectricity is generally the cheapest, since it does not require a fuel source). Fuel prices do fluctuate and utilities try to keep their costs down by using the least expensive fuel -- Nova Scotia Power switches between Bunker 'C' (oil) and natural gas at its Tufts Cove power station, using whichever is cheaper.
Despite the variations in fuel prices, most utilities charge individual classes of consumers (such as residential) a single rate per kilowatt-hour of electricity consumed. In other words, although electricity from a hydroelectric station may be cheaper than electricity from an oil-fired power station, only one rate (generally the higher) is available to consumers. Although there are fuel price differences, utilities normally don't allow customers to pick-and-choose how their electricity is generated. For example, Nova Scotia Power's domestic service rate for residential customers is 8.35 cents per kilowatt-hour, regardless of the type of fuel used.
The fact that Nova Scotia Power's customers are charged a single rate and they have no choice in how the electricity they use is generated raises an interesting question: Why does Nova Scotia Power's 'Green Power Initiative' require customers to pay a premium if they choose wind-generated electricity?
The answer given on Nova Scotia Power's Green Power Web Page is "with Green Power, Nova Scotia Power and Nova Scotians can feel good about making a contribution to a cleaner, greener, environment." It will take more than Nova Scotia Power's "feel good" premium pricing for green power to contribute to a "cleaner, greener, environment".
An alternative to "feel good" premium pricing is the Renewable Portfolio Standard (or RPS). RPS programmes are typically legislated by local governments and require utilities to include renewable energy in their energy mix. RPS is different from existing green power programmes in that the utility cannot charge a differential fee for renewable energy. Most RPS programmes require their utilities to supply a small percentage of their power as renewables; this percentage increases each year until it reaches a maximum, which must be maintained by the utility. In the United States, RPS is being adopted for a number of reasons, including improving local air quality and encouraging the development of green energy industries.
The provincial energy strategy document, "Seizing the Opportunity", proposes a two-phase approach to encouraging the generation of electricity from renewable energy in Nova Scotia. In the first phase, Nova Scotia Power's Green Power Initiative will operate for three years, with environmentally conscious customers paying a premium for wind-generated electricity from a limited number of independent power producers. After three years, the second phase will begin with the Green Power Initiative being reviewed by the provincial government and Nova Scotia Power, then a Renewable Portfolio Standard will be considered. According to "Seizing the Opportunity", the increase in the cost of electricity to consumers would be less than one-half of one percent with the introduction of RPS.
It is unclear why anyone would want to pay a premium on electricity for three years only to have it reduced when RPS is introduced. A further unknown is whether RPS will be instituted if there is little public interest in the Green Power Initiative. (It is probably too soon to gauge public reaction in to the Green Power Initiative in Nova Scotia, but in PEI, Maritime Electric has been able to sign up only 210 customers willing to pay a premium for wind-generated electricity.)
Generating electricity from renewable energy sources will have many benefits for Nova Scotia, both environmental and economic. The provincial government should institute a Renewable Portfolio Standard now, requiring wind to be part of Nova Scotia Power's energy mix without premium pricing.
The province has more to lose than to gain by waiting three years and then consulting with Nova Scotia Power about a Renewable Portfolio Standard.
Submitted to Daily News and Halifax Herald, April 2002. Unpublished
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After hearing the suggestion that Highway 103 should not be twinned, Transportation Minister Ron Russell responded "You can't dictate to people in this country where they're going to live". This is a ridiculous statement from a minister of a government that has just enacted the Smoke Free Places Act -- legislation that dictates where and when people are allowed to smoke. Governments can and do set policies that they believe are for the betterment of society.
The question is, does the provincial government have any long-term vision for transportation in this province, given the well-known problems associated with transportation? According to the provincial energy strategy document, "Seizing the Opportunity", these problems include, "new infrastructure [that] is costly and increases vehicular traffic in the urban areas, with attendant increased fuel use, air emissions, congestion, and inefficient energy use by commuters".
The unrestricted growth of Timberlea-Tantallon region over the past decade illustrates these problems and highlights others: these communities are not 'transit friendly', forcing residents to use the automobile for almost all activities, including commuting by automobile between Timberlea-Tantallon and Halifax.
The energy strategy document states that, "the province will continue to work with urban municipalities to coordinate the long-range needs of the provincial transportation infrastructure with those of municipal planning".
Population projections indicate that 8,000 additional residents will move to Timberlea-Tantallon over the next decade. The provincial government, in conjunction with HRM, must act now to avoid the problems associated with unrestricted growth and reliance on the automobile. By developing provincial transportation policies to encourage the use of public transportation, Nova Scotians will benefit in many ways, including reduced road accidents, a cleaner environment, and protection from rising fuel prices.
Someone should tell the Transportation Minister that Nova Scotia needs a transportation policy for the twenty-first century, not for 1960.
Submitted to Daily News and Halifax Herald, 29 May 2002. Unpublished.
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It has long been recognized that there are considerable economic and social benefits to educating and training Nova Scotians rather than 'importing' skilled workers from outside the province. Governments of this province, regardless of their political stripe, have developed policies and invested considerable sums of taxpayer money in colleges and universities in order to achieve this goal. Typically, these policies are intended to educate a workforce in order to attract an industry or to meet the needs of an existing industry.
An excellent example of this is the provincial government's training policy for the energy sector, outlined in "Seizing the Opportunity", the provincial Energy Strategy document. Several institutions, notably UCCB and Dalhousie University, have received funding from the province, the federal government, and to a limited extent, private industry, to establish training and education programmes for the energy sector. Of course, as with most things associated with the province's energy strategy, training in the "energy sector" refers exclusively to the oil and gas industry.
A recent report in the Daily News confirms this as government policy: Gordon Balser, the new Minister of Energy, will use his position to "create the skilled workforce ... to increase the benefits flowing from the offshore".
Focussing the training of Nova Scotians entering the "energy sector" exclusively on oil and gas is extremely short-sighted. Nova Scotia's offshore reserves are estimated to contain less than six trillion cubic feet of natural gas -- about 20 years of supply at existing and projected rates of extraction. If these estimates are correct, the demand for people trained with skills in the oil and gas industry will probably peak by 2010.
Clearly, it is necessary to train Nova Scotians for work in the oil and gas industry, but not to the exclusion of other energy industries which the province could attract that will require skilled technicians. For example, the increasing cost of fossil fuels coupled with the well-known environmental impacts of electrical generation from fossil fuels has already caused many jurisdictions and electrical utilities to look for clean, sustainable alternatives such as wind.
Ongoing research is showing that Nova Scotia has a particularly attractive wind resource that could be used for export as well as supply a large part of the province's electrical demand. The creation of a provincial wind industry is being hampered, in part, by the provincial government failing to create an environment in which utilities, such as Nova Scotia Power, are required to supply an ever increasing amount of electricity from renewable sources.
A provincial wind industry will need skilled electrical and mechanical technologists to manufacture, install, and maintain wind turbines. However, unlike technicians trained in the oil and gas industry, those trained for the wind industry will have long-term jobs that will not disappear when the resource is exhausted, since the wind will blow forever.
Despite the potential of wind energy, the province is doing little to train or encourage Nova Scotians to pursue a career in this field. In fact, recent events would suggest that the province is taking a step backwards with the recent announcement by UCCB that they are about to curtail their electrical technology programme for power technicians.
If the province is to develop a true, long-term energy strategy, it will have to include renewable energy sources such as wind. Energy Minister Gordon Balser should amend the provincial Energy Strategy's training component to include the education of technicians who will have the skills to work in wind-related industries. The training of skilled energy sector technicians should not be restricted only to the oil and gas industry.
Published: Daily News. 26 June 2002
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One of the more interesting statements made in the provincial energy strategy document, "Seizing the Opportunity", discusses the problems associated with high-speed highways. In the section on transportation, it acknowledges that "new [highway] infrastructure is costly and increases vehicular traffic in the urban areas, with attendant increased fuel use, air emissions, congestion, and inefficient energy use by commuters". We are about to witness a textbook example of the impact of highway development on urban areas with the recently announced twinning of Highway 103 between Otter Lake and Upper Tantallon. About 15 kilometers of highway are to be twinned at a projected cost of $16 million.
The arguments for widening these sections of Highway 103 are based upon an observation and a prediction. The observation is that between 1989 and 1998, the volume of traffic grew by about 15 percent, a result of the development of bedroom communities between Timberlea and Upper Tantallon. The prediction is that 8,000 additional residents are expected to move into this area over the next decade due, in part, to the twinning of the highway.
The twinning may be good news for developers and it may give the illusion that traffic is moving faster, but the additional traffic it generates will lead to significant problems in other areas of HRM. First, the road network within the Halifax peninsula is not being upgraded or modified to handle the additional traffic that can be expected from the twinning. Peninsula neighbourhoods such as those around Jubilee Road will be subjected to increased traffic volumes, poor air quality, and congestion. Second, the availability of parking on the Halifax peninsula has not been increased significantly, despite the opening of the 600 vehicle "Metro Park".
Many cities in the developed world have seen the death of the downtown core as one of the inevitable results of unrestricted automobile growth. As congestion and parking problems worsen, businesses migrate from the core to the outskirts of the city. This has already begun in Halifax, with companies abandoning the downtown in favour of business parks such as Burnside and Bayer's Lake. If Halifax's downtown is to remain a vibrant and important business and commercial center, it will be necessary to encourage people, not their cars, into the downtown. To do this, alternatives to the automobile must be found.
At present, Metro Transit operates two commuter buses a day between Tantallon and downtown Halifax; the scheduled journey time takes slightly less than one hour. It also runs buses between Timberlea and the downtown, with journey times of about an hour-and-a-half. Neither of these bus routes use Highway 103. Adding more buses to these routes or changing the bus routes to use Highway 103 will make little difference since, inevitably, the bus must compete with the automobile for space on the road. The width of roads on the peninsula all but eliminates the possibility of creating special bus lanes. To be effective, public transportation must be separated from the congestion-causing automobiles.
Anyone who has driven to Timberlea or Tantallon will be aware of the abandoned CN rail line. The line runs between Upper Tantallon, Timberlea, Bayers Lake, Fairview (at Joe Howe Drive), and the downtown Via Station. The total distance from Upper Tantallon to the Via Station is about 32 kilometres. For about the cost of the recently announced Highway 103 twinning, the track could be re-laid and upgraded, and a commuter rail service could connect communities along the line. Given the right equipment, a trip from Upper Tantallon to the downtown Via Station would take about 30 minutes. By placing a station at Fairview where the tracks cross Joe Howe Drive, commuters for Dartmouth and Burnside could detrain and catch buses to take them across the MacKay Bridge.
There are viable alternatives to our dependence on the automobile. These alternatives offer considerable benefits to Nova Scotians, including livable cities, less dependence on imported oil, cleaner air, and reduced greenhouse gas emissions. The provincial government should be well aware of this; after all, it is in their energy strategy document.
Published. Daily News. June 2002
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Last week, Nova Scotia Power announced the names of the communities selected as sites for its two wind turbines. Later this year, Nova Scotia Power is scheduled to name one or more Independent Power Producers (IPPs) who have been chosen to operate the province's first wind farms. Residential consumers will be given the option to purchase electricity generated from the wind -- so called 'Green Power'.
Nova Scotia Power's Green Power programme is based upon the concept of 'premium pricing' in which residential customers who want to participate must pay extra for wind-generated electricity. According to their submission to the Utility and Review Board, the premium price will be $5.00 for a 'block' of 125 kilowatt-hours (that is, 4 cents per kilowatt-hour over and above the current residential rate).
If experience from other jurisdictions is anything to go by, the Green Power programme will probably attract many customers. In Prince Edward Island, the Green Power programme was overwhelmingly successful when it was first introduced earlier this year, and all the blocks that had been allocated to residential customers by Maritime Electric were sold.
It would appear that Green Power is a winning prospect for all Nova Scotians. IPPs that want to build 'wind farms' (that is, place a number of turbines in a single area to benefit from the local wind resource) to generate energy from the wind will be able to do so. Electrical consumers will be allowed to purchase wind generated electricity if they so choose. Wind turbine manufacturers (such as Turbowinds in Amherst) will be able to build and sell equipment to the local IPPs. And of course, Nova Scotia Power can then make the claim that it's "doing its bit" to improve the quality of life in the province.
Despite this seemingly rosy scenario, the Green Power programme does not necessarily mean that there is a viable future for wind energy in Nova Scotia, consider:
These two points alone would suggest that if Nova Scotians want to have the opportunity to take advantage of wind-generated electricity, the proposed Green Power programme will probably fall short of their expectations.
So is there an alternative?
Renewable Portfolio Standards (or RPS) is an alternative to Green Power that, if implemented correctly, would ensure the development of a viable renewable energy industry in Nova Scotia, while at the same time, meet the public's demand for 'green' electricity.
Successful RPS programmes require electrical utilities to meet an annual target of renewably generated electricity. This target increases each year over a period of years to some legislated maximum. There is no premium pricing -- the cost of the renewably generated electricity is included in the utility's overall cost-of-service base.
A significant benefit of RPS has been shown in Texas, where utilities and the IPPs enter long-term contracts because the requirements are known many years in advance.
According to the provincial energy strategy document, "Seizing the Opportunity", the provincial government will monitor the interest in Green Power for three (or perhaps five) years and then implement RPS. The newly formed Department of Energy is firmly against implementing RPS now because, they argue, Nova Scotians don't want to have an increase in the price of electricity.
This is an extremely weak argument, since, as "Seizing the Opportunity" states, the price of electricity will rise by less than one-half of one percent (about $5.00 for every $1000.00 of electrical consumption) when RPS is introduced. Furthermore, this can be expected to drop as the cost of electricity from renewable sources continues to decline.
If Nova Scotia is to have a renewable energy sector, the Department of Energy should introduce RPS legislation now, not at some unknown date in the far future.
Published: Sunday Herald. 21 June 2002
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