Nova Scotia reduces forest biopower cap

By Lisa Gibson | April 20, 2011

The eastern Canadian province of Nova Scotia has lowered by 30 percent its cap on the amount of new forest biomass that can be used to produce power, defending the act as a measure to further protect the sustainability of forests in the province.

The new cap is 350,000 dry metric tons annually, down from 500,000 as specified in Nova Scotia’s renewables program. “As we work to meet our target to generate 40 percent of the province’s electricity from renewable sources by 2020, we are continually assessing our information,” said Charlie Parker, Nova Scotia’s minister of natural resources. “We have decided that the original 500,000 [metric ton] cap, laid out in the 2010 Renewable Electricity Plan and subsequent regulations, can be more cautious on the basis of current analysis.”

When the plan was released in April 2010, the province made a commitment to defer to a Natural Resources Strategy process in setting the biomass cap, according to Parker’s office. “The Phase Two steering panel report in the Natural Resources Strategy process states that government should exercise caution in the use of biomass for power generation,” he said. “We are paying attention to that advice while continuing to rely on forest biomass as part of a diversified approach to renewable energy.”

Provincial forest biomass will not be cofired in Nova Scotia power plants, and other biomass projects will continue to be covered under the cap, according to Parker’s office. That includes community-based biomass projects under the province’s new Community Feed-In Tariff program. Forest biomass is used in Nova Scotia in a number of applications including firewood in more than 100,000 homes, a cogeneration facility in the southern portion of the province, an agricultural college, two hospitals and several other institutions.

In addition, NewPage Port Hawkesbury Corp., in partnership with Nova Scotia Power, is also developing a 60-megawatt cogeneration facility that will use 200,000 metric tons of biomass annually, but the company is unconcerned with the cap. “The provincial announcement lowering the cap on the annual amount of new forest biomass does not affect our NewPage biomass project,” said Patricia Dietz, communications manager for NewPage Port Hawkesbury. “The change refers to projects that may come forward in the future.” The steam turbine project is well underway and expected to be operational by January 2013. But new policies to reduce clear cutting to 50 percent will apply to the plant, according to Parker’s office.

The province will release an economic impact analysis of recent policy changes on the forestry industry, particularly the clear cutting reduction target, in the next few weeks, it said.