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Trenton coal plant unit will stay open for another year

Nova Scotia Power says it needs reliable replacement electricity before the polluting unit can close

4 min read
caption Nova Scotia Power in Halifax, January 27, 2022. The company runs the coal-fueled power station in Trenton.

One of the two coal-fired units at Nova Scotia Power’s generating station in Trenton has had its retirement delayed one year to 2024.

The Trenton 5 unit’s closure depends partly on Nova Scotia receiving power expected from the Muskrat Falls hydro development in Labrador, but that project has suffered from a series of delays.

“The reliable flow of the Nova Scotia Block of energy from Muskrat Falls over the Maritime Link will enable the closure of one coal-fired unit,” said Jacqueline Foster of Nova Scotia Power, in a written statement.

Muskrat Falls was delayed once again this week. It is already behind and had cost nearly double its initial estimated $7.4 billion by September 2020, with an additional million dollars added each day.

Nova Scotia Power says it can’t shutter a coal plant until it has “replacement firm capacity,” rather than “intermittent sources,” such as wind turbines. In an update filed to the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board, the power company says it needs more time to secure that power.

The news comes as the company has also applied to the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board for a 10 per cent rate hike from its customers.

Pictou County’s District 9 councillor Peter Boyles doesn’t “care” for the delay “at all,” and has been fighting for the closure of the plant “for many years.”

“The emissions coming out of here, I mean, it’s bad enough that we’ve still got these harmful emissions coming out and ruining our properties, right?” said Boyles. “The place where I live, I can’t even grow vegetables or anything because the ground is so polluted from those sources of power.”

Aside from increased imports, Nova Scotia Power was also planning to install a combustion turbine at the Trenton plant. A combustion turbine, sometimes known as a gas turbine, combusts excess gases and recycles synthetically produced and natural gases making it a more environmentally-friendly option.

“We’ve got two stacks here, number five and number six…in the morning when you wake up, you’ll find black grease covering your homes, all over your vehicles, your trees, your everything,” said Boyles.

“My doctor told me…he said, ‘Peter, it’s bad enough these big particles are landing on your cars and stuff but the fine particles are getting in your lungs as well.’”

While the coal plant pollutes, it also employs Pictou County residents.

“Trenton is an industrial town, and we’re sort of rebuilding from the ashes you know,” said Mayor Don Hussler.

“Nova Scotia Power is a good neighbour and a good taxpayer within the town … but it accounts for about 20 per cent of revenue coming in and (the closure) would certainly have an impact on our tax revenue,” he said.

“We’re working with the province, Nova Scotia Power, and other businesses, hoping to have a productive future.”

Trenton 5  generates 300 megawatts of electricity for the province.

While some residents might hope for the closure of the Trenton 6 unit, the company said that can’t happen for now.

“Nova Scotia Power plans its supply resource mix to meet utility planning requirements and does not currently have sufficient excess generating capacity to enable a second coal unit retirement at this time,” said Foster, in the statement.

“As we are able to secure replacement firm capacity from domestic or imported sources, this will enable another coal unit closure.”

Nova Scotia’s Ecology Action Centre says that if the province meets its goal of phasing out coal-fired electricity in 2030, it would avoid 89 premature deaths, 8,000 asthma episodes and 58,000 days of breathing difficulty for Nova Scotians.

“The best way to get to the 2030 targets and prepare our grid for complete clean electricity is to increase the capacity of wind and solar and test out different battery technologies,” said Gurprasad Gurumurthy, energy coordinator for renewables and electricity for the centre.

caption CER’s graph of Canadian coal electricity generation by region to 2040.

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