NB and NS reach agreement with Ottawa to phase out coal and create a green energy grid by 2030

The governments of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia have received federal approval for their plans to increase the use of renewable energy and stop using coal to generate electricity by 2030.

New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs, Nova Scotia Premier Tim Houston and federal Energy and Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson made the announcement during a news conference at the end of a day of meetings in Ottawa on Monday.

“There is enough agreement today that I am optimistic that we can get something done for the benefit of the people of Nova Scotia and ultimately for the benefit of Canadians,” Houston told reporters.

The plans presented by the two provinces represent a modified version of the Atlantic Loop project, the massive project that would have seen improved transmission lines between the two provinces to allow the import of hydroelectric power from Quebec.

A man wearing a suit, tie and glasses stands in front of the Canadian flag.
New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs says both levels of government agree affordability must be part of the process of greening and modernizing the power grid. (CBC)

But rising costs — the latest estimates peg the project at $9 billion — and questions about how much power is actually available from Quebec have prompted provinces to pursue a shortened version of the plan that would still see the construction of upgraded transmission lines. But more emphasis is on renewable energy generated within the two provinces, including wind, solar and nuclear.

After months of tension between the two levels of government and brief comments exchanged through letters and press conferences, politicians spoke in a cooperative and positive tone Monday, agreeing that provinces can achieve their environmental goals while recognizing the financial impacts on residents.

“That was a common theme throughout our meeting, which is that we have to find a way for people to be able to live and work in our counties,” Higgs told reporters.

Seed funding announced

As part of Monday’s press conference, Wilkinson announced a first phase of funding for the two counties while talks on broader funding requirements will continue. This includes:

  • $11.5 million for Nova Scotia to improve monitoring and automation of its electric grid.

  • $7 million to support pre-development work for the Ark Small Nuclear Reactor at Pointe Libreau, New Brunswick

  • $2 million to explore converting New Brunswick’s last coal-fired power plant at Belledon into “sustainably sourced” biomass.

  • One million dollars for the port of Belledon to study the establishment of a green industrial center.

Implementing the plans would cost much more than that — Nova Scotia estimates its plan would cost $2 billion — but Wilkinson said talks are already underway about how to help Ottawa.

A man in a suit and tie stands in front of Canadian flags.
Nova Scotia Premier Tim Houston speaks to reporters in Ottawa on Monday. (CBC)

When talks focused on the Atlantic Ring, premiers complained that Ottawa’s offer of loans would eventually raise energy prices to a point where they would be unaffordable for the people of their provinces.

Financing options include some mechanisms that would have been part of the Atlantic Loop, but the Canada Infrastructure Bank would likely be an option for transmission lines from Onslow, N.S., to Salisbury, N.B., and tax credits for the investment would be, Wilkinson said Monday. The option is to be finalized by the federal government in the coming months.

“Ultimately, the network of the future must be clean, but it must also be reliable and accessible to everyone,” Wilkinson said.

“There are other things we may need to do, but I would say a lot of the money is either already available or will soon be getting the federal government actually involved in supporting the work that needs to be done.”

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