New study suggests Atlantic Loop needed as part of energy mix as coal is phased out

The proposed energy corridor to connect the four Atlantic provinces to hydroelectricity in Quebec and Labrador is important to help the region achieve zero carbon emissions, but the project is not enough, according to a new study.

When coal is phased out, demand for electricity will increase, according to the study released last week by Enviroeconomics and Navius ​​Research, on behalf of the Halifax-based Ecology Action Centre. The Atlantic region will need more than the proposed $5 billion Atlantic Loop Corridor to meet future demand and keep the region fossil fuel-free, according to the study, titled “Assessing net zero electricity supply and demand models in the Atlantic Loop”.

“Modeling suggests that Atlantic Loop scenarios that provide low-emission hydropower from Newfoundland and Labrador or Quebec are important to meet future demand,” the study said. “Several uncertainties, however, suggest that a balanced approach to the (energy) supply mix is ​​likely the prudent course to take.”

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It will be particularly important for Nova Scotia and New Brunswick to find sources of electricity to complete the future Atlantic loop, the study indicates, noting that these two provinces are the only ones in the region that still have of coal-fired power plants.

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The study indicates that in New Brunswick, the federal government has not agreed to extend the life of the Belledune plant beyond 2030, while Nova Scotia continues to operate four coal-fired plants and petroleum coke. The largest, in Lingan, Nova Scotia, has a capacity of 620 megawatts.

Both provinces have committed to phasing out coal generation by 2030, while Nova Scotia has legislated targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 53% below of 2005 by 2030 and to achieve net zero emissions by 2050. There is also a commitment that 80% of the province’s energy will be supplied by renewable sources by 2030.

The study warns that the modeling it uses to measure Atlantic Loop costs is uncertain because the price tags of major projects are “generally” underestimated while the costs of renewable energy sources could fall more rapidly provided that.

He also points out that the future supply of electricity from Quebec and Newfoundland and Labrador to power the Atlantic Loop “may be an issue” given competition for low-emission electricity from the United States. and Ontario.

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“We conclude that a portfolio approach that includes developing greater domestic renewable power generation while exploring Atlantic Loop opportunities is a prudent approach to meeting future electricity needs in a net-zero future and without fossil fuels,” the study says.

In a recent interview, Gurprasad Gurumurthy of the Ecology Action Center said energy costs will be high in the future if more renewables such as wind and solar are not brought online. And while electricity rates will initially rise when coal is phased out, consumer bills will decline over time as more power is transferred into the grid, Gurumurthy said.

He says improving Atlantic Canada‘s electricity grid in the short term will help make residential and commercial buildings and power transmission more efficient.

“It needs to be done,” Gurumurthy said of launching the Atlantic Loop or installing a second undersea connection to the delayed Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project in Labrador. “The solution will be full collaboration between our institutions, government and public services.”

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Gurumurthy said the Atlantic Loop project is technically feasible, adding that all that remains is political will and negotiations between provinces.

“There is potential for this loop to be established,” he said.

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Atlantic Premiers have had discussions in recent months with Ottawa about funding for the Atlantic Loop, but there have been no federal commitments to date.

Following a cabinet meeting last week, Tory Rushton, Nova Scotia’s minister of natural resources and renewable energy, said “conversations” were ongoing.

“But at this time there has been no official request from our government to the federal government,” Rushton said. “We are finalizing some initiatives to assess the true total cost.”

Rushton admitted that if anything were to happen, it would have to happen sooner rather than later.

“We have quite ambitious (climate) targets and 2030 is not that far away, so we realize that decisions will have to be made very soon,” he said.

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on May 22, 2022.

© 2022 The Canadian Press

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