The Canadian Maritime province of Nova Scotia is trying to kick imported coal, which accounts for nearly two-thirds of its electricity production. The boot it’s using? A feed-in tariff (FIT). The government has now approved a handful of wind and tidal projects, all community based, to get it moving in its FIT quest for 100 megawatts of new clean power.
Feed-in tariffs are a policy commonly used in Europe – and sporadically in the United States, where portfolio standards tend to dominate – to bring renewable energy online. The basic format is that a government sets a long-term price above cost for the types of energy production it wants to encourage, then guarantees producers that the energy will be purchased. The expectation is that over time, as renewable generation grows and matures technologically, the price paid can be lowered, bringing renewables toward grid parity.
There are several interesting twists to Nova Scotia’s FIT. First, it requires that developers be community-based – thus the name Community Feed-In Tariff (COMFIT). The focus is on municipalities, First Nations, nonprofits, cooperatives and the like. Also, unlike the province of Ontario, where solar is a large FIT component, Nova Scotia isn’t offering a price for PV. Instead, it’s dangling 49.9¢ per kilowatt-hour (kWh) for small wind (under 50 kilowatts); 13.1¢/kWh for big wind; 14.0¢/kWh for run-of-the-river hydro; 65.2¢ per kWh for in-stream tidal and 17.5¢ per kWh for combined heat and power biomass.
The government said 88 locally based proposals from more than a dozen groups were fielded in the FIT’s first round, with the Colchester-Cumberland Wind Field, Watts Wind Energy, Northumberland Wind Field, the Municipality of the District of Chester and Fundy Tidal of Digby all moving on to the next step in the process.
“These applications reflect significant community ownership,” Energy Minister Charlie Parker said in a statement. “Once constructed, they will stand as testaments to the spirit of innovation and self-reliance that characterizes rural Nova Scotia, while contributing to local jobs and strengthened economies.”
Nova Scotia believes the COMFIT program will help it reach what it calls “aggressive renewable electricity targets” of 25 per cent renewable electricity by 2015 and 40 per cent by 2020.