Peter Craig is the Team Lead for the Solar and Smart Energy Strategy for the Nova Scotia Department of Energy. On Monday, December 4 from 2:00 – 2:30pm, Peter will be delivering a session titled “Solar’s Potential in Nova Scotia’s Near- & Long-Term Non-Emitting Electricity Goals” in the Gowling WLG Theatre at the Solar Canada Conference & Exposition 2017.
We recently spoke to Peter about a new program in the province of Nova Scotia that encourages local communities to install solar panels for the generation of electricity that will be be sold back to the local electric utility. Peter also shared some insights into Nova Scotia’s unique position in the Canadian context and about his belief that solar can help his province advance toward their goal of generating 40% renewable energy by 2020.
In April of this year, the Nova Scotia government announced the Solar Electricity for Community Buildings program. Can you tell us a bit more about this program?
Absolutely. The Solar Electricity for Community Buildings program is a three-year pilot program designed to encourage the use of solar energy creation technologies by different community groups and organizations within Nova Scotia. This is the program’s first year and there are four categories of eligible participants: first nation bands, municipalities, non-profit groups, and educational institutions.
The program was introduced in April of this year, following extensive consultations with the industry and various stakeholders, and the application process opened on July 31. Applicants were required to provide information about the solar installations that they wanted to build in their communities, including a proposed price per kilowatt hour (kWh) for the electricity that would be generated.
The successful applications were selected by an independent procurement administrator, Clean Foundation, a local non-governmental organization (NGO) that was selected using a separate request for proposal (RFP) process. The Nova Scotia Department of Energy wrote the rules for the competition and Clean Foundation was engaged to oversee the competition and select the winning bids.
Speaking of winning bids, you recently announced which applications were selected.
On November 10, we announced that 18 community groups from across the province were selected to commence their solar construction projects. As part of the program they will enter into a 20-year agreement to sell their power to their respective local electric utilities.
With two years remaining in the program, we have encouraged every group and organization that wasn’t successful this year — we received nearly 70 applications in total — to consider applying again next year or the year after.
What was the rationale for taking this approach to encouraging the adoption of solar energy-creation technology?
We wanted this program to build on the success of our recently-completed ‘Community Feed-in Tariff’ (COMFIT) program. COMFIT encouraged community-based renewable energy projects by guaranteeing a rate per kilowatt-hour for the energy that feeds into the province’s distribution electrical grid. The program was designed to broaden ownership of renewable electricity in Nova Scotia and facilitate community investment in renewable electricity projects.
Between 2011 – 2016, more than 100 community partnerships successfully established renewable energy projects throughout Nova Scotia, collectively creating 150 megawatts of community owned power — enough to provide electricity to more than 14,000 homes. On a per capita basis, Nova Scotia creates more power from non-hydro renewables, like wind, than most other Canadian provinces. In addition, our independent efficiency utility, Efficiency Nova Scotia, has been delivering electrical efficiency directly to home owners in Nova Scotia for almost 10 years now.
Our objective with the Solar Electricity for Community Buildings program was to take a similar approach; working with various community groups and organization across the province. We feel that this approach results in better engagement and ensures that Nova Scotians became informed and remain engaged in renewal energy development in the future.
You will be leading a Gowling WLG Theatre session at Solar Canada titled “Solar’s Potential in Nova Scotia’s Near- & Long-Term Non-Emitting Electricity Goals”. Who will benefit most from attending your session? What can they expect?
I hope to keep my session fairly general; as to make it interesting and relevant for a broad audience. I’ll provide some history on Nova Scotia’s renewable energy policies and I want to outline some of the unique challenges that our province faces as we move toward our target of 40% renewable energy by 2020.
Nova Scotia was the first province to meet its 30 by 30 Paris commitment. That is, we’ve already succeeded in reducing our emissions by 30%, well in advance of 2030. We’re also leaders in energy efficiency, reducing our electricity by 1.2% per year on average.
But that means that we’ve harvested a lot of the ‘low-hanging fruit’, as it were. We’re now moving in to more challenging areas and I would like to discuss how solar can help to resolve some of our challenges and what roles various parties in attendance can play in the future.
How much of an impact do provincial polices have on the Canadian Solar industry?
It is my belief that provincial policies can have a significant and positive impact on the industry. Given that energy falls to the provinces to regulate, if any level of government is going to have an impact, it’s the provinces.
Programs like Net Metering are provincially initiated and regulated. We hope to continue creating opportunities, but it is up to the industry to take advantage of those opportunities and to help us to push things forward.
Provincial governments can also help to create some buzz, with the hope that we’re creating a virtuous circle. As we open up new programs and opportunities, the industry must take advantage of them, however, and should point the way toward future opportunities that we can put in place.
What are your thoughts on participating in the Solar Canada Conference & Exposition 2017?
I have attended the event in the past and I am looking forward to this year. Solar Canada gives me the opportunity to catch up with people that I don’t get a chance to speak with on a regular basis.
And, although I am a ‘policy nerd’ at heart, I am also an engineer. I love to catch up on what’s going on in the industry, in terms of the technology. I really look forward to this event because it allows me to talk with some of the technology providers and get a feel for what is happening within the industry.
I’m looking forward to sharing some details of the things that we’ve done well in the past. But, I’m also excited to work more closely with the solar industry, which is a relatively new technology for us, as we search for ways that we can continue to lead in some areas and learn more in others.
Peter Craig is the Team Lead for the Solar and Smart Energy Strategy for the Nova Scotia Department of Energy. Peter joined the Department of Energy in 2013 and has worked on several electricity-related issues during this time, including regulatory proceedings, smart energy and innovation programs, and Nova Scotia’s Electricity Plan. Peter is currently responsible for the design of Nova Scotia’s solar programming and actively involved in developing policy and programs as part of Nova Scotia’s green house gas reduction planning. Peter is a professional Engineer and, prior to transitioning to government, had a career in power electronics design.
The Canadian solar energy market is growing rapidly
Solar Canada Conference & Exposition 2017 will provide an excellent platform to connect with industry professionals and enter this growing market. Solar Canada takes place December 4 – 5, 2017 in Toronto, Ontario. Canada’s largest solar energy conference is a must-attend event for solar energy professionals, stakeholders, and advocates. Register today.