NS Power president: Tidal power 'game-changing', fishery concerns to be addressed

Eric Bourque ebourque@thevanguard.ca
Published on June 24, 2016

Bob Hanf, president and CEO of Nova Scotia Power at the Rodd Grand Hotel in Yarmouth, where he spoke to the local chamber of commerce.

YARMOUTH, NS -- The head of Nova Scotia Power says he is confident that tidal energy developers will be able to address concerns raised by the fishing industry.

Speaking to the Yarmouth and Area Chamber of Commerce, Bob Hanf - Nova Scotia Power’s president and chief executive officer -  said the energy potential of the Bay of Fundy could make it a “game-changing resource.”

He acknowledged  the importance of the fisheries, “so it’s important that all stakeholders have the opportunity to be fully consulted and heard, which is why Emera (which owns Nova Scotia Power) has slowed things down a bit to have conversations with fishermen.”

Fishermen have expressed concern about the impact tidal power could have on their industry.

“With any new technology, public acceptance is as important as the innovation itself,” Hanf said. “I’m confident that the experts designing the tidal turbines will be able to address the concerns and put forward and appropriate monitoring program.”

Over an eight-year period, Nova Scotia Power went from having nine per cent of its electricity coming from renewable resources to almost 27 per cent, said Hanf, adding that getting to this point wasn’t easy. By law, 40 per cent of the utility’s energy must be renewable by 2020.

Wind-generated power has helped, he said, but there are limitations. It’s not uncommon for 20-30 per cent of Nova Scotia’s nighttime electricity load – when there is good wind and low usage – to be served by wind generation, he said, but the challenge with wind is you can’t control it.

“At our coal plants and our natural gas plant, we can control the output,” he said. “On most of our hydro systems, we can control how much water runs through the turbines. With wind farms, it’s all up to how much the wind is blowing.”

Two or three times a week, wind production drops below 10 per cent of installed capacity, he said, making it necessary to back up wind on very short notice.

Coal plants thus are being used in ways they weren’t designed for, he said.

“We’re bringing them up to capacity, then we’re dialing them down,” he said, “Then we’re bringing them back up again, chasing wind to ensure electricity supply for Nova Scotians.”

Hanf, a former Yarmouthian who has been Nova Scotia Power’s president and CEO for three-and-a-half years, said the utility is on track to reduce its CO2 emissions by 25 per cent by 2020.

“To our knowledge, this is the most aggressive carbon reduction plan for any utility in North America,” he said.