The chairman of the Nova Scotia Utility and Overview Board says the province will want extra hydroelectricity to fulfill strict environmental requirements that can shut all coal-fired electrical crops by 2030.
After 18 years as chairman of the quasi-judicial regulatory board, Peter Gurnham will step down on the finish of the month. Navigating a decarbonized future awaits his successor, he mentioned.
“Clearly the most important problem the brand new chair goes to have is how we will meet these carbon targets each 2030 and 2050, as a result of we must be net neutral by 2050,” Gurnham mentioned in a uncommon interview with CBC Information.
“Numerous this hinges on entry to dependable hydro, which is in abundance in different elements of the nation. Sadly, not in Nova Scotia.”
Gurnham mentioned Hydro Quebec is a possible supply, supplied the grid reference to New Brunswick is improved to hold it into Nova Scotia.
Crucial case throughout his tenure concerned greening the grid — approving the Maritime Hyperlink to ship hydroelectricity from Labrador to Nova Scotia Energy prospects.
Extra inexperienced electrical energy wanted
The evaluation board issued its last determination on the megaproject earlier this month, authorizing Nova Scotia Energy-parent firm Emera to gather $1.7 billion from ratepayers over the next 35 years.
Emera’s Newfoundland and Labrador accomplice, Nalcor, bungled its part of the mission, however contracted quantities of Muskrat Falls hydroelectricity are actually being delivered by way of the 177-kilometre Maritime Hyperlink subsea cable throughout the Cabot Strait — albeit years late.
Gurnham mentioned extra inexperienced electrical energy might be wanted when Nova Scotia Energy’s coal-fired technology crops shut in eight years.
Nova Scotia and New Brunswick are lobbying Ottawa to assist with the price of upgrading interprovincial grid connections — dubbed the Atlantic Loop — as a method to assist wean the provinces from coal.
“It will imply larger energy charges until policymakers give you cash, taxpayer cash or authorities cash that may help with a few of this,” mentioned Gurnham.
“Clearly, if that involves cross, that can reduce the affect on ratepayers. However absent that, these coal crops had been prudent once they had been constructed, and Nova Scotia Energy is entitled to recuperate their prudent prices with respect to these crops.
“On the identical time, they’ve to search out clear vitality to maintain the lights on. So it is a large problem, however it’s being labored on, on numerous fronts and the board will react to no matter assignments we’re given.”
Board not nicely understood by public
With out the Atlantic Loop, he mentioned pure fuel can be required.
Along with regulating electrical energy, the evaluation board additionally oversees auto insurance coverage, water charges, pure fuel, buses, gaming, payday loans, the Halifax-Dartmouth bridges, municipal planning appeals and municipal boundaries.
Its full-time employees of 30 and eight full-time board members regulate 38 provincial statutes.
Lori Turnbull, director of the Dalhousie College Faculty of Public Administration, mentioned the regulator has a “important position in numerous issues that actually have an effect on your every day life from a value perspective,” but is just not nicely understood by the general public.
“We concentrate on elected officers. We concentrate on the ability of the premier. It is about accountability, too. After we elect individuals, we count on to carry them to account for choices they make,” mentioned Turnbull.
“Whereas on one hand it’s good that it’s an unbiased board and never political, on the opposite it means there’s not that direct public accountability.”
Gurnham mentioned one in all his greatest challenges throughout his tenure was to make the board extra clear, and he feels he achieved that.
To advertise public confidence, credibility and transparency, Gurnham made its operations open to the general public. Cameras had been allowed into hearings and proceedings and proof is now posted on-line.
Gurnham additionally introduced on a shopper advocate to guard the pursuits of Nova Scotia Energy’s 400,000 residential prospects and an advocate for small enterprise.
Not sufficient knowledgeable protection
Nonetheless, the evaluation board is usually lumped in as an confederate of Nova Scotia Energy — crucial firm it regulates and a favorite villain on social media.
Gurnham mentioned he would not learn unsigned feedback — “In any other case I might go loopy.”
He added that the disappearance of knowledgeable mainstream media protection of its hearings and choices lately has had an affect.
“Apart from the CBC and AllNovaScotia.com, we do not see a lot mainstream media right here anymore. So Nova Scotians, sadly, are discovering out about what we do on Fb,” he mentioned.