Friday, February 6, 2004 Link To Herald The Halifax Herald Limited

Peter Parsons / Herald Photo
Emera Inc. COO Chris Huskilson and Nova Scotia Power COO Ralph Tedesco speak to reporters in Halifax on Thursday.

Coal remains powerful
NSP plans to keep burning fuel 'for some fairly long time'

By Judy Myrden / Business Reporter

Burning coal will remain a staple for Nova Scotia's largest electric utility into the next decade, Chris Huskilson, Emera Inc.'s chief operating officer, said Thursday.

"Fundamentally, we believe that coal will be part of our mix for some fairly long time to come," Mr. Huskilson said during an editorial meeting with this newspaper. He was accompanied by Nova Scotia Power's new chief operating officer, Ralph Tedesco.

About 60 per cent of NSP's generating capacity is coal-fired, with imports from the U.S. and Venezuela to generate power at its four coal-fired electricity plants. About 10 per cent of NSP's coal supply is domestic, he said.

"One question that's out there right now is just how much coal will we have from domestic supplies?" asked Mr. Huskilson, who heads operations for NSP's parent company, Emera Inc.

He said the utility is facing a huge challenge to keep the lights on in the province and meet its requirements to reduce greenhouse gases.

"I think everything in the energy game has its constraints," said Mr Tedesco. "Fossil fuels, you have emission issues. Renewables, you have how much can you physically extract."

This, he said, is a much broader issue than NSP and must address what Nova Scotians expect and are willing to pay for energy.

At NSP, operating and maintenance costs for coal generation are about 2.5 cents per kilowatt hour. Meanwhile, it costs about seven cents per kilowatt hour for wind power.

"How we can ensure that Nova Scotia stays economically healthy because obviously, energy is a very key component," said Mr. Tedesco, who was appointed last month.

Natural gas can supplement but not replace coal, hydro is currently maximized and wind has its limits, Mr. Huskilson said.

Renewable sources of energy such as natural gas, hydro and wind power produce about nine per cent of the province's electricity.

NSP is looking at adding a $25-million gas-fired generator next year to meet growing demand for electricity.

"The consumption of energy in the province has continued to increase. That's good news, that means the economy is going along very well," Mr. Huskilson said.

However, the utility will have to decide whether any new supply of electricity should come from renewables or a new power generator.

"We work in a business where folks expect the lights to come on. Meeting that obligation we take very seriously," Mr. Tedesco said.

NSP is spending about $30 million on a new pier at Point Tupper to allow the utility to import cleaner coal from South Africa, Russia and Indonesia for use at its Trenton power plant.

The new wharf should be operational next year.

Currently, NSP operates two wind turbines in Grand Etang, Inverness Co., and Little Brook, Digby Co.

It is also going to buy wind power from Atlantic Wind Power's project in Pubnico

Mr. Huskilson said the utility is also looking at the feasibility of setting up a wind turbine on the southern coast within the year. The utility has set up six test sites there - some of them are on islands and some are on the coast, said Mr. Huskilson.

"If there is a good wind resource then we would look to set up some wind coastal generation," he said.