Lessons From Nova Scotia On Developing Renewable Energy

By Cheng Zhi Wei

Tidal power by saavem

Speaking at the Opening Plenary of the Asia Future Energy Forum yesterday as part of the Singapore International Energy Week 2013, Mr Bruce Cameron, Executive Director, Sustainable and Renewable Energy, Nova Scotia Department of Energy in Canada, shared his experience of developing Nova Scotia’s ocean energy sector and the factors that led to their success.

His presentation highlighted the holistic approach Nova Scotia has adopted to the development of its tidal energy potential and holds many lessons for government officials and businesses who are looking to tap other renewable resources in their countries. According to Mr Cameron, besides resource endowment, public engagement and government leadership are key for the successful and sustainable development of Nova Scotia’s tides.

The Nova Scotia Department of Energy has simple objectives – the development of a diverse and sustainable energy portfolio. Coupled with the island’s rich tidal resource (Nova Scotia enjoys a daily tidal difference of 16m with flows of up to 5.1m/s), the Nova Scotia Department of Energy has been developing tidal energy as a renewable source of energy for the island’s electricity needs. However, the abundance of the renewable resource is but a piece of the puzzle.

Another key element is that of research and development. As in all other sources of renewable energy, research and development is needed to overcome technical barriers and to lower costs and increase efficiency and reliability. Mr Cameron highlighted the necessity of tapping the global research potential by leveraging on the work of others and looking for opportunities for collaboration. However, he emphasised the need to understand local conditions and characteristics and to adapt these circumstances accordingly.

In addition to the traditional concept of technology, he suggested that there are broader aspects to consider as well. These include management processes, social engagement practices, other related knowledge and skills and the balance of systems (a term used in the solar photovoltaic industry to refer to other components of a solar PV system besides the PV panels).

Another point he made was the pivotal role the government plays through the implementation of their energy policy. Feed-in tariffs, a form of electricity subsidies, help to accommodate the high initial costs as companies and consumers learn to implement and use these renewable technologies. An obvious caveat is that the government must ensure that these positive spin-offs are indeed realised and to have measures in place to quantify these benefits.

The government can also establish collaborations with other partners such as universities, industrial players and international organisations to help tackle the various technical and financial challenges. Finally, the government must remain flexible and continue to adapt its policies as mistakes are made and lessons are learnt throughout the process.

The final point he made was the need for active public engagement to garner support for these initiatives. This need is amplified if the renewable resource involves a common, shared space such as Nova Scotia’s coastline and seas. In addition, he emphasised the need to use scientific facts to convince the community that there will be no disruption to their activities and livelihood.

While Mr Cameron’s insightful presentation focused on the development of tidal energy in Nova Scotia, the lessons and success factors can be applied to other renewable energy sectors as well. The broader interpretation of technology and the need for collaborations across various organisations are equally applicable to other renewable energy sectors that have similar technical challenges to overcome. In addition, the focus on community engagement and public support can be applied to all facets of government policy and are key to any long term plans.

The Asia Future Energy Forum 2013 provides a platform for the discussion of various renewable energy technologies, development and deployment. The forum is part of the Singapore International Energy Week 2013, an annual gathering of global energy leaders from the government, industry and international organisations to discuss energy issues, strategies and solutions.

Image credit: Tidal power by saavem

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