Proposed Nova Scotia energy operator would accelerate charging station deployment
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Mar 8, 2024
Emma Jarratt

With current regulations frustrating charging station deployment across the province, Nova Scotia is moving to “modernize” its electricity system

The Nova Scotia government is moving to overhaul the province’s electricity system with proposed legislation that, among other things, will make it easier to install EV charging infrastructure in the province.

With current regulations frustrating charging station deployment across the province, Nova Scotia is moving to “modernize” its electricity system

The Nova Scotia government is moving to overhaul the province’s electricity system with proposed legislation that, among other things, may make it easier to install EV charging infrastructure in the province.

The proposed changes could remove a barrier that exists under Nova Scotia’s current Public Utilities Act that prevents a provincially-funded charging network using utility ratepayer’s money to build EV charging stations.

Data from other jurisdictions in Canada shows that utility participation in fast charger deployment is essential. BC Hydro and Hydro-Québec, for example, maintain some of the most extensive and successful fast charger networks outside of Tesla in their respective jurisdictions. And in Newfoundland and Labrador, the public fast charging network is exclusively run by NL Hydro and Newfoundland Power.

By changing the regulations, Nova Scotia Power would be able to directly build EV charging stations (though the proposed changes do not explicitly say that NS Power may use ratepayer money to do so). Previously they’ve done so only through investment by investments from electricity distributor Emera.

“It’s an important step that essentially enables a lot more future technologies, the resale of electricity through different organizations that are not what would be defined as a ‘traditional utility,'” Jeremie Bernardin, director of electric vehicle training and innovation at the Integrated Automotive Experience, in an interview with Electric Autonomy.

“It’s going to enable and support technologies like vehicle-to-grid…more than just that it’s going to help provide a framework for businesses to work in. The key part here is that it’s going to help drive more competition and that’s going to help the end user get a more competitively priced product, whether that’s electricity or a service of sorts. If we’re opening up the doors, and we’re letting more players in and we’re letting more people compete in that space that’s really good for the end user.”

The proposed changes

The new legislation proposes a suite of reforms to Nova Scotia’s electricity system.

First, the Energy Reform (2024) Act will create two new acts and repeal another.

The Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board will split into two new boards: the Nova Scotia Energy Board and the Regulatory and Appeals Board.

The former would go into operation this year and will have an “expertise in and a focus on regulating public utilities in the energy sector,” reads press material. The latter will focus on the remaining responsibilities of the existing Utility and Review Board.

Meanwhile, the new More Access to Energy Act will create an Independent Energy System Operator (IESO).

This entity will, according to the government, “manage the operations of the electricity system, making sure electricity is delivered where and when it is needed. It will also manage the connection of renewable energy projects to the grid.” (These responsibilities were previously under the jurisdiction of Nova Scotia Power.)

The IESO is aiming to be operational by 2025 and “will also take on responsibilities for system planning and procuring new energy sources.”

EV charging implications

Data from NRCan and PlugShare shows that Nova Scotia has just 26 DC fast charging stations in the province.

Last summer, Electric Autonomy travelled in an EV around Atlantic Canada, including in Nova Scotia between Halifax, Amherst and Sydney, Cape Breton. We found Nova Scotia’s charging options were few and far between and, for some EV drivers, very difficult to access.

Despite having a robust charging network across the rest of Canada, the Tesla Supercharger network has not stretched into Canada’s three most easterly provinces.

Between Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, there are just three Supercharging locations. Two of them are in Nova Scotia.

One Tesla driver Electric Autonomy spoke to in North Sydney said he was struggling to access charging on the non-Tesla DCFCs because the adapter provided was not working properly and there were no Tesla chargers within his range.

The new legislation also provides Nova Scotia with the opportunity to build a nuclear power station or use small modular reactors to generate clean power.

Currently Nova Scotia generates over 55.5 per cent of its power from emitting sources, including coal. Nova Scotia is aiming to be off coal power by 2030 and generate 80 per cent renewable electricity.

Editor’s note: this story was updated to reflect more recent power generation soure statistics from Nova Scotia.

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