The province introduced legislation recently that will permit greater competition and choice for electricity ratepayers, and lay the groundwork for broad consultation. This legislation is a first step in government's plan to review Nova Scotia's electricity policy.
Energy Minister Andrew Younger said the Electricity Reform Act will deliver on a commitment to begin opening the market to renewable energy producers and create local investment opportunities for renewable electricity providers.
"Nova Scotians told us they want greater choice of renewable electricity suppliers and we are acting on this commitment," said Mr. Younger. "This legislation will allow renewable energy providers to sell directly to customers and will help ensure competition. It's a solution that puts Nova Scotians first."
The legislation will allow government to begin developing renewable-to-retail regulations by spring. This will ensure the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board UARB is able to review a proposal for detailed rules. Nova Scotians are expected to be able to purchase electricity directly from renewable retailers in late 2015.
"The opportunity being provided by government is positive for renewable energy firms, like Scotian Windfields, and for all Nova Scotia electricity consumers," said Dan Roscoe, chief operating officer with Scotian Windfields. "It will provide an additional market for renewable energy infrastructure investment and allow consumers to choose from whom they purchase electricity."
The regulations will support domestically produced, low-impact renewable electricity such as wind, solar, biomass and tidal energy. It will not apply to municipal utilities, which already have the ability to buy from other suppliers. To ensure consumer protection, independent power producers will need a licence to sell electricity directly to retail customers.
The legislation calls for the UARB to develop and implement the licensing regime for the suppliers.
The Electricity Reform Act also lays the groundwork for the first public consultation on the electricity market in 13 years. In 2014, government will use a focused and careful consultation process to help determine the province's long-term electricity strategy, and is required by the legislation to report back to the legislature.
"We want to engage Nova Scotians in an open and frank discussion about the future of our electricity policy and market," said Mr. Younger. "At the end of the day, we want a system that can adapt to change and is properly regulated in the interest of ratepayers. Feedback from these consultations will also help ensure future policy decisions line up with Nova Scotia's economic, environmental and industrial goals."
A report outlining key consultation findings will be provided to the minister within 14 months of the act being proclaimed.