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Published on August 2nd, 2011 | by John Farrell


Local Clean Energy a High Priority for Canadian Provinces

August 2nd, 2011 by  

Ontario’s “buy local” energy policy has the promise of 43,000 local jobs from 5,000 MW of new renewable energy.   Now Nova Scotia is showing a strong interest in boosting the economic returns of its clean energy program.

The maritime province is completing rule-making for a provincial goal of 40% renewable power by 2020 that includes a 100 megawatt (MW) set-aside for community-owned distributed generation projects. The policy promises to increase the economic activity from its renewable energy goal by $50 to $240 million.

Under the Community Feed-in Tariff (ComFIT), the community-owned projects will receive 20-year contracts for power at rates sufficient to ensure a reasonable return on investment. The preliminary rates, designed by Synapse Energy Economics, were published earlier this year:

The eligible technologies include wind, biomass combined-heat-and-power, run-of-the-river hydroelectricity, and small-scale, in-stream tidal power. The projects must connect to the local distribution system of Nova Scotia Power, and will largely be 6 MW or smaller.

The key difference between Nova Scotia’s community feed-in tariff and similar policies in the U.S. (e.g. Vermont’s feed-in tariff) is that projects in Nova Scotia’s program must be owned by the following entities.

  • A municipality
  • Mi’kmaq band council
  • Cooperative
  • Not-for-profit
  • Community economic development corporation
  • University
  • Any entity that uses output from a biomass CHP facility

For cooperatives, non-profits, and community economic development corporations, at least 25 members must live in the vicinity of the proposed project to ensure local ownership and to increase local acceptance of the project.

The policy is a serious commitment to locally owned renewable energy, and it promises a commensurate economic benefit. For example, if the entire 100 MW promised under the ComFIT were simply developed as an absentee-owned wind project, it would generate around $100 million of economic activity. With community ownership under the ComFIT program, the economic impact will rise to $150 to $340 million.

The province’s energy policy also includes enhancements to standard net metering, allowing individuals and businesses to develop renewable energy projects (including solar and other technologies not supported under the feed-in tariff) of up to 1 MW to generate power for on-site use. Producers can aggregate all their meters under a single account to net meter, and may also receive compensation at the retail rate for all excess power generation.

Renewable energy offers clean power and great promise for new economic development, but few American states have shown the focus of Ontario and Nova Scotia on the local economic potential.

Photo credit: Flickr user rjzii

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About the Author

directs the Democratic Energy program at ILSR and he focuses on energy policy developments that best expand the benefits of local ownership and dispersed generation of renewable energy. His seminal paper, Democratizing the Electricity System, describes how to blast the roadblocks to distributed renewable energy generation, and how such small-scale renewable energy projects are the key to the biggest strides in renewable energy development.   Farrell also authored the landmark report Energy Self-Reliant States, which serves as the definitive energy atlas for the United States, detailing the state-by-state renewable electricity generation potential. Farrell regularly provides discussion and analysis of distributed renewable energy policy on his blog, Energy Self-Reliant States (energyselfreliantstates.org), and articles are regularly syndicated on Grist and Renewable Energy World.   John Farrell can also be found on Twitter @johnffarrell, or at jfarrell@ilsr.org.

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