By Nancy Kelly
Candidates across party lines in King County’s three ridings agree the rising cost of power and renewable energy has resonated with voters in this election.
Reacting to plans by Berwick and Mahone Bay to develop a seven-tower wind farm in West Hants under the newly-formed Alternative Resource Energy Authority (AREA), four candidates weighed in on their thoughts on developing renewable, more affordable sources of power.
Kings North incumbent NDP Jim Morton pointed out while owning its own electric utility gives Berwick “a special place with regards to energy production,” the NDP is not in favour of de-regulating the industry.
“In many jurisdictions, doing so has actually increased costs for consumers.”
He believes a mixed portfolio of renewables, including investments in small-scale wind, tidal and solar power projects, is crucial to Nova Scotia’s energy future. His party also remains firmly committed to developing the Maritime Link hydro electricity project in conjunction with the province of Newfoundland.
On the doorsteps, Morton is hearing a “helplessness” when it comes to Nova Scotia getting a handle on its energy costs.
“While they want to understand the issue, and about the need to get away from coal, many don’t understand the cost of electricity is directly linked to the cost of fossil fuels.”
Kings South candidate Sheila Richardson confirmed “the Green Party of Nova Scotia supports development of small-scale, decentralized, renewable energy systems, including small-scale wind power,” provided it is well-designed and properly sited.
Like the party, she remains wary of the health concerns associated with large-scale wind turbines and pointed out that the Green Party is also concerned by the provincial government’s decision to put large scale wind development under municipal responsibility, without setting standards for turbine design and proper siting.
She said the Greens would like to see a comprehensive study of wind power for Nova Scotia with public participation. Citizen input into Kings County’s review of their large-scale wind regulations, which raised “significant red flags,” was sufficient enough to warrant a halt to local development. That, she says, indicates people in Kings County share her party’s concerns.
For Kings South Progressive Conservative candidate Shane Buchan, the message during the campaign has been obvious.
“People just can’t afford our high power rates,” he said, adding while campaigning door-to-door, he has heard how many Kings County residents are forced to choose between paying their power bill or buying family staples.
While he personally thinks the AREA initiative is a great idea, Buchan explained the PC party is advocating a freeze on power rates and working towards developing a power grid that lowers costs for everybody, not just ratepayers in municipalities that have their own utilities.
Looking to the future, Buchan says the party sees tidal power as the way to go.
“We like tidal power. The sun goes out, the wind stops blowing, but the waves and the water in the Bay of Fundy never stop moving.”
For Kings West incumbent Leo Glavine, AREA’s plan to establish a new source of power is an example of what the provincial Liberal party has been advocating for years.
“We want to provide competition and break Nova Scotia Power’s (NSP) monopoly,” he said, adding there are options for development that should also “cause NSP to sharpen its pencil.”
Contrary to Buchan’s concerns about the reliability of wind power, Glavine cited Nova Scotia as having one of the three best wind regimes in North America. He says there is also potential for the province to develop off-shore wind towers and points to geo-thermal possibilities.
During the campaign, the Kings West constituency office has continued to field calls from people who have had their power turned off, Glavine said.
“The high cost (of power) is a burden for the average Nova Scotian. That needs to change.”