How Your Electricity Was Generated In 2012

by NSPower 14. February 2013 23:01

My name is Wayne O’Connor, and I joined NS Power as a member of the Executive team in October 2012. Part of my job is to ensure we generate the lowest cost electricity for customers while meeting our environmental targets to increase the amount of electricity we generate from renewable sources, and emit fewer greenhouse gas emissions. I wanted to share some news on our progress toward our renewables goals. The table below outlines the percentage of electricity made from different sources in the last few years, including brand new information from 2012.

I’m pleased to say that last year, 18.3% of Nova Scotia’s electricity was generated from renewable sources including wind, hydro, tidal and biomass. This is the highest total ever, and nearly met our 2013 requirement of 18.5% a year early. We expect to go even higher this year once our 60 megawatt biomass generation facility comes online. Some readers may be surprised to see that we used slightly more coal in 2012 than in 2011, especially after a steady reduction in use from 80% in 2006 to 57% in 2011.

  2009 2010 2011 2012 (Jan-Aug) 2012 (Sep-Dec) 2012 (Total)
Coal & petcoke 68% 65% 57% 57% 63% 59%
Natural Gas 13% 19% 20% 23% 16% 21%
Renewables (Wind, Tidal, Hydro, Biomass) 11% 13% 17% 18% 19% 18%
Imports 5% 4% 6% 2% 2% 2%
Oil & Diesel 3% 0.1% 0.3% 0.1% 0.2% 0.1%

That change has much to do with the supply and cost of natural gas. In September, when production issues at the Sable Offshore Energy Project (SOEP) began lowering the supply – and thus increasing prices – we reduced our natural gas generation in favour of coal. Until then, we had been steadily increasing our use of gas because we could buy the fuel at relatively low prices and using it creates fewer emissions than coal. In this case, the switch to coal help save our customers money over continuing to use gas, while still allowing us to meet emissions requirements.

The table above also shows the difference in how we were making electricity before and after these production issues. While some may have preferred for environmental reasons to see coal use continue to decrease last year, I think what happened demonstrates the value for customers in having the flexibility to draw on multiple sources to make electricity – having that balanced portfolio I mentioned earlier. The roughly $500 million we spend each year on fuels like coal and natural gas has a big impact on the end price of electricity, so this flexibility helps shield customers from additional costs associated with any one source.

Having too many eggs in one basket hasn’t served us well in the past. Relying heavily on oil became a problem for Nova Scotia when the OPEC Crisis hit in the 1970s, and being dependent on coal has been a challenge given its rapid escalation in cost over the past five years. We’re building a more a balanced approach, so that we have options and flexibility when conditions change. Renewables are a big part of that as they’re largely unaffected by the kind of price volatility we see with fossil fuels. Depending on natural gas and coal prices in 2013, we may see another increase in coal use this year. But renewables will only continue to increase as we work toward reaching 40% in 2020.

Thanks for taking the time to read this post today, and I’d be happy to answer any questions in the comments.

-Wayne

Tags:

Biomass | Coal | Electricity Costs | Environment | GHGs | Hydro | Natural Gas | Rates | Tidal | Wind

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Robin McAdam

A Cleaner Megawatt is Nova Scotia Power's company blog. Most posts are from Robin McAdam, Executive Vice President, Strategic Business & Customer Services, though other leaders within NS Power offer their own insight into issues relevant to Nova Scotians with additional posts on the blog.

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