Nova Scotia and New Brunswick are the only remaining coal-burning provinces in Atlantic Canada and we need to set a path for decarbonization to ensure people and the environment are safeguarded against the harmful impacts of fossil fuel use. Several technological pathways exist to achieve our goal to decarbonize by 2035. However, emerging policy highlights the need for a more open, robust and collaborative landscape to ensure a fast and fair transition to clean energy that leaves no one behind.
Much of the narrative on decarbonizing electricity points towards ramping up renewable supply, and regional coordination to overcome technical and economic challenges, while keeping forefront the three pillars of affordability, reliability and sustainability.
This decade is a crucial period for climate action. Both N.S. and N.B. have committed to phasing out coal by 2030, and N.S. has a target of achieving 80 per cent renewable energy generation by that same year. This leaves N.S. and N.B. under eight years to reach high levels of renewable energy generation and establish a reliable supply of electricity to meet the future demand in the sector. Moreover, the electricity sector is highly poised to decarbonize in the medium-term, with the federal government working towards a clean electricity standard to achieve 100 per cent clean electricity by 2035.
This report showcases clean electricity supply scenarios and demonstrates possible pathways to decarbonize the Atlantic region by 2050. Some important highlights of the modelling outcomes are provided below:
- The report models various net-zero and Atlantic Loop scenarios.
- Results explore emissions pathways, the generation mix, electricity trade, price impacts, and household energy costs from both the energy demand and electricity supply models with a focus on N.S. and N.B.
- Net-zero scenarios explore complete nuclear phase-out in N.B., building a second Maritime Link between N.L. and N.S., and connecting large hydro from Que. to both N.B. and N.S. (the Atlantic Loop scenarios).
- The electricity sector is set to nearly double in both N.S. and N.B. by 2050
- In both provinces, a rapid decline in emissions is seen in the net-zero simulations, much faster than the reference case scenarios, which is attributed to the coal phase-out targets (Figure 1).
Figure 1: Annual Change in Emissions to Net-zero Pathway
- Five categories of low carbon technologies are identified for new low-carbon investment including decarbonizing fuels (energy carriers), decarbonized electricity, low carbon vehicles in businesses and households, efficiency and electrification in commercial and residential buildings, and industrial decarbonization. To fund the transition to net-zero, investment must scale up across all categories
- In Nova Scotia:
- Coal reduces to zero in the modelling, with imports and renewables filling the supply gap. In all scenarios, the coal phaseout happens rapidly, with more stringent policy in the net-zero cases resulting in a more rapid decline in coal generation.
- In all scenarios, imports are an important factor for meeting domestic demand as coal is phased out. In the scenarios where there are more interties, renewable generation is lower than the net-zero scenario without interties.
- Renewable penetration of 90 per cent by 2030 is feasible.
- In the net-zero scenarios, although energy costs increase in the short-term, they stabilize in the medium and long-term. Energy costs in the reference cases on the other hand increase and sometimes surpass the net-zero cost trajectories.
- In New Brunswick:
- Coal is phased-out in all scenarios and has a high impact on reducing greenhouse gas emissions. In addition, coal’s decline is import’s gain, where connecting to the Atlantic Loop allows the province to decarbonize rapidly.
- Renewable energy adoption is minimal until nuclear is phased out in 2040, as price of clean electricity imports are more cost effective in the near-term.
- While electricity prices are predicted to rise in the net-zero scenarios compared to the reference case, the overall energy costs for households as a share of total expenditure fall.
The Ecology Action Centre (EAC) commissioned EnviroEconomics and Navius Research to author the technical and modelling report titled, Assessing Net-zero Electricity Supply and Demand Models in the Atlantic Loop report, May 2022.
Watch the panel discussion below on our Assessing Net Zero Electricity Supply and Demand Models in the Atlantic Loop report.
We've highlighted and discussed various clean electricity supply scenarios to decarbonize Atlantic Canada by 2050. The report is a part of our Atlantic Vision for a future where electricity is affordable, reliable and sustainable.
- Gurprasad Gurumurthy, Ecology Action Centre
- Dave Sawyer, EnviroEconomics