By JUDY MYRDEN, Business Reporter, www.thechronicleherald.ca
The Dexter government is only releasing a small number of the 57 documents it received about the province’s plan to increase the amount of green energy generated here.
On Tuesday, the province released five of the submissions containing advice about the province’s draft renewable electricity regulations but only after The Chronicle Herald filed a request under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.
The government sought public input on its new renewable energy strategy in May, and the public had until July 23 to submit ideas.
After being denied access to the submissions, The Chronicle Herald filed its request Aug. 25.
The material released to the newspaper offers advice on plans to increase the province’s renewable electricity supply. The province wants 25 per cent of its electricity to come from green sources by 2015.
In September, the Energy Department offered to expedite the process by asking The Chronicle Herald to select some of the 57 submissions for perusal. Then, the province said, it would ask those parties if they wished to have their submissions made public.
The newspaper requested seven documents but was given five, including submissions from Nova Scotia Power, Halifax law firm McInnes Cooper, papermaker NewPage, the Canadian Wind Energy Association and wind turbine manufacturer Enercon.
Two companies, Northern Pulp and Paper and Halifax-based renewable energy firm Shear Wind Inc., requested that their submissions remain private.
The government says it will eventually release all submissions after each individual, company or group has been contacted to determine whether entire sections may be made public or if there would be a partial release of documents.
“The process involved submissions by people who had, in some cases, confidential arrangements or commercial arrangements,” said Bruce Cameron, the Energy Department’s director of policy, planning and services, on Tuesday.
The regulations are to establish eligibility for community-based projects and a process for determining how they get compensated, along with a special process to support the next stage of tidal development in the Bay of Fundy.
They also establish a new renewable electricity administrator to manage bids for larger projects from independent power producers.
Cameron said the regulations are being finalized and will soon be presented to cabinet for approval.
“Regulations will then be finalized by cabinet and then become law.”
He said most of the submissions indicate “overwhelming support for the thrust and direction of the renewable electricity plan and a great deal of support for the main features of the community feed-in tariffs.”
The tariffs guarantee producers of renewable energy a long-term contract in which they are usually paid a price higher than the market price for power they feed into the grid.
The wind energy association’s submission supports the government’s plan and estimates that six megawatts of new wind power by 2015 will lead to $19.5 million in annual local economic revenue and over 122 direct jobs. It also recommended a broad definition of “community,” as it pertains to the tariffs, that includes every resident of Nova Scotia.
Nova Scotia Power, in its submissions, is urging government to provide a “clear definition” of the word community.
Nova Scotia Premier Darrell Dexter proclaimed this week Right to Know Week to raise awareness of the right to access information.