Energy efficiency could get a boost in Eastern Canada with the creation of an independent agency in Nova Scotia tasked with overseeing programs aimed at cutting electricity consumption and reducing peak demand. Those programs are currently the responsibility of Conserve Nova Scotia, created in 2006 as part of the province’s Department of Energy.
The bulk of electricity in the region comes from Nova Scotia Power, part of the publicly traded Emera, which provides more than 95 percent of the generation, transmission and distribution of electricity in the province.
The move to an independent, non-profit agency could help cut through the bureaucracy that’s normally associated with a government-run agency, and is expected to encourage more competitive and innovative solutions, according to a report from Dalhousie University that recommended the creation of the new group. Nova Scotia will become the first province in the country to have an arm’s-length administrator for energy conservation programs, Cheryl Ratchford of the Ecology Action Centre, an environmental activist group, told the Chronicle Herald.
The agency, likely to be called the Nova Scotia Electricity Efficiency Agency, will focus on electricity generation and use, but there is the possibility that it could end up becoming a one-stop shop for the administration of other efficiency measures. The report from Dalhouse, submitted to the provincial government earlier this year, said that it could be cost-effective in the long term to have the agency handle overall energy efficiency. For now, energy efficiency and conservation programs for fuels such as home heating oil and wood will continue to be delivered by Conserve Nova Scotia.
Earlier this year, Conserve Nova Scotia announced a deal to help residential building owners invest in energy efficiency via the kind of program that would fall under the new agency’s oversight. The program offers rebates for the use of energy-efficient lighting, Energy Star-qualified washing machines, and other devices.
Energy efficiency can involve a broad range of technologies and conservation programs in green building, industrial applications, vehicle technology and more. It received attention in the U.S. just last week when President-elect Barack Obama called for an effort to make public buildings more energy-efficient.
The U.S. has a leg up on independent agencies for energy efficiency, with the Dalhousie report pointing out that agencies have already been set up in Vermont and Oregon; Efficiency Vermont was created in 2000 and the Energy Trust of Oregon was formed in 2002.
Nova Scotia’s new agency will be controlled by a board of directors, with oversight from the province’s Utility and Review Board. Costs will be covered by electricity users in the region, which could ruffle the feathers of the province’s biggest power users.
The Chronicle Herald notes that in the past, pulp and paper companies NewPage Group and AbitibiBowater, both of which have paper mills in the region, have pushed for taxpayers to fund a new energy efficiency agency. But as the Dalhousie report points out, electricity users also have the most to gain from efficiency investments, in the form of lower electricity bills.