FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: June 23, 2022
KJIPUKTUK (HALIFAX) – Now that Nova Scotia Power (NSP) has confirmed it’s receiving the full Nova Scotia block of hydroelectricity from Muskrat Falls, the Ecology Action Centre is calling on the provincial government to rescind a directive to maximize the use of forest biomass for electricity generation. The May 2020 directive, issued to NSP by the former MacNeil government, was intended to offset delays in receiving renewable electricity from the Muskrat Falls project*.
“In January and again in March, NSP reported to the Utility And Review Board that they were now receiving the Nova Scotia block of hydroelectricity from Muskrat Falls,” says Raymond Plourde, senior wilderness coordinator with the EAC. “As a result, NSP has been given permission by the UARB to start charging ratepayers for the $1.7 billion cost of the Maritime Link between Newfoundland and Nova Scotia. And yet the biomass plant in Port Hawkesbury is still running at full capacity and so was the one in Brooklyn until it was damaged in a storm this spring. Burning extra biomass is no longer needed for NSP to meet its Renewable Energy Targets and should therefore be discontinued.”
The directive was issued under the assumption that burning forest biomass is a green energy source, an assumption that Plourde and scientists around the world strongly rebuke, describing it as “the Critical Climate Accounting Error”.
“Make no mistake, there’s nothing “green” about burning our forests to produce electricity,” says Plourde. “Large-scale biomass for electricity projects are driving massive amounts of forest destruction here and around the world, contributing to alarming biodiversity loss and releasing more carbon per kilowatt generated than fossil fuels, with governments and industry counting the emissions as zero simply by not counting them at all. It makes no sense.”
In addition to its negative environmental impacts, Plourde also points to the higher cost for ratepayers, as was reported to the Utility And Review Board on multiple occasions by analysts for the Consumer Advocate.
"Ratepayers have been paying tens of millions of dollars in extra costs because of the May 2020 directive and the subsequent more than doubling of wood being burned for very expensive electricity generated from biomass,” says Plourde. “With NSP seeking approval for double-digit rate increases, this is one area where the government can help lower electricity costs and reduce real greenhouse gas emissions at the same time.”
Beyond the directive, Plourde says that biomass burning for electricity in the province needs to be dramatically reduced, and should no longer be categorized as a renewable energy source.
“In the short term the provincial government needs to dial back the biomass burn-fest to the previous levels, which was less than half of what it is today” says Plourde. “In the longer term, they need to recognize that biomass is not a climate solution and does in fact release significant amounts of carbon into the atmosphere, then remove it from the Renewable Electricity Regulations, shut down the biomass electricity plants in Nova Scotia and ban biomass exports for electricity generation in other countries. The idea that burning trees is somehow magically ‘Zero Carbon emitting” is an industrial fairy tale and currently one of the biggest climate mistakes humanity has ever made. We desperately need to fix that.”
For further information, please contact:
Raymond Plourde – Senior Wilderness Coordinator
* When speaking about Muskrat falls, EAC feels it is important to note that the project is an example of environmental racism, and has had a devastating impact on the Nunatsiavut and the Inuit people. However, now that it has been built, and we are receiving power from the project, it provides an opportunity to reduce other harms that are ongoing, like the continued clearcutting and burning of forests for low-efficiency biomass electricity.
Photo capaction: Brooklyn biomass energy plant and wood yard – December 21, 2021
Photo credit: Simon Ryder-Burbidge