By - Michael Drost

Renewable energy policy pioneer Nova Scotia ends feed-in tariff program

Energize Weekly, August 12, 2015

Nova Scotia ended its pioneer community feed-in tariff (COMFIT) after four years this week, saying that the popular program had achieved its objectives.

The tariff, which guaranteed small renewable energy producers a sustainable fee for their electricity, was created to provide an incentive for independent, community-based renewable energy production to feed the provincial grid. Provincial officials say that while the plan has allowed small producers to provide energy to the grid, the added capacity has now turned into a liability as Nova Scotians are paying more for energy from community-based projects than from other sources.

“This is the right time to bring Comfit to a close; it has achieved its objectives,” the provincial Liberal government stated in a press release. “We are now at a point where the programme could begin to have a negative impact on power rates.”

The program, launched in 2011 by the former New Democrat government, was the world’s first feed-in tariff for locally-based energy projects. It was initially designed to bring in 100 megawatts (MW) of independently produced power for the Nova Scotia grid.   There are currently 80 MW of power feeding the provincial grid, with 125 megawatts of capacity projected to come online by the end of this year.

It was for this reason that the provincial government decided to end the program, with Energy Minister Michel Samson telling reporters this week that the tariff would likely “have a negative impact on rates” if it continued.

Environmental and renewable energy advocates in Nova Scotia were dismayed by the decision, saying that the program has been a resounding success and should be continued.

“As pointed out by the Department, the COMFIT program has exceeded expectations both in clean energy output and in contributing to the economic development of Nova Scotian communities,” said Catherine Abreu, energy coordinator with environmental advocacy group Ecology Action Centre. “This should be cause for celebration, not cancellation.”

Renewable energy producer Natural Forces went further, suggesting the decision was political because it was a program enacted by the previous government.

“We’re disappointed. Comfit was the previous provincial government’s programme,” said Andy McCallum, Natural Forces’ Vice President of Developments. “It’s a political decision: if the project continued then the opposition could accuse this government of forcing energy prices up in the short-term.”

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