Nova Scotia’s COMFIT-Program – Canada’s Third Feed-in Tariff for Renewable Energies

The Canadian province of Nova Scotia is seeking to promote clean, green renewable energies. In order to implement the targets established by new comprehensive legislation in 2010, the province has introduced the COMFIT-Program. Nova Scotia will become the third Canadian province after Prince Edward Island and Ontario to launch Feed-in Tariffs for renewable energy.

Currently, Nova Scotia still generates most of its power from imported coal.  On April 23, 2010, the province’s government established the Renewable Electricity Plan and committed itself to increase the electricity supply generated by renewables to 25 % by 2015 and 40 % by 2020. One of several initiatives related to the implementation of this plan is the Community-Based Feed In Tariff Program, or COMFIT-Program. This program establishes uniform feed-tariff rates (i.e. the prices to be paid for the electricity) in order to promote the development of local renewable energy projects.

The Province has already conducted a public process including public notices of regulations and technical sessions with expert consultants. One of the consultants, Synapse Energy Economics, has made its first tariff proposal in December 2010. The proposed rates have garnered much attention as they are partly higher than anywhere else in the world.

The Utility and Review Board (UARB) of Nova Scotia is expected to launch the feed-in tariff rates during the summer of 2011. The rates are intended to cover basic cost-recovery as well as the cost of capital. Nova Scotia may soon have the first feed-in tariff for tidal power in North America, feed-in tariffs which only target community-owned renewables and are among the highest tariffs for wind energy and hydroelectricity. For example, the draft rates for wind energy are currently as follows:

  • Wind ≤50 kW $0.452/kWh
  • Wind >50 kW $0.139/kWh

Nova Scotia's COMFIT-Program differs from others in North America and in Europe as it limits the group of eligible participants to community-owned projects. Eligible to apply will be municipalities, Mi'kmaq band councils, cooperatives, not-for-profits, community economic development corporations, universities and entities that use the heat from combined heat and power biomass facilities.

The program is designed for the following sources of renewable electricity:

  • wind, with a capacity over 50 kW and with a capacity of 50 kW or less.
  • combined heat and power biomass facilities (CHP) where the use of the thermal energy is eligible.
  • small-scale instream tidal.
  • run-of-the-river hydroelectricity.

It should be emphasized that solar photovoltaics are excluded from the COMFIT Program. Furthermore, the eligible entities named above must own a majority of the proposed project and the projects must be connected to the grid at the distribution level (i.e. typically under 6 MW.)

The program and applications will be managed by the Nova Scotia Department of Energy. Nova Scotia Power will be involved as well in the later stages of the project development. It is anticipated that applications for the COMFIT-Program will be accepted shortly after the rate has been set by the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board. This will be a one-window process and does not include permits or approvals required for construction projects in general, which must be obtained before applying for a contract under the COMFIT-Program. The Department of Energy recommends submitting early applications even if the project concept has not yet been fully developed. The government intends to assist applicants in relation to a wide range of issues including the accessing of project financing.

The government of Nova Scotia will review the COMFIT-Program in 2012. Several Nova Scotia stakeholders have formed the Nova Scotia Sustainable Electricity Alliance (NovaSEA) to monitor the development of renewable energies in general and the COMFIT-Program in particular. There are several renewable energy companies from across the country who have already expressed interest in the COMFIT-Program and who are waiting for formal confirmation of the anticipated tariff rates.

For further information, please visit the following websites: 

Nova Scotia Department of Energy: http://nsrenewables.ca/feed-in-tariff.htm

COMFIT-guide providing more details about the eligible projects, requirements and the application process: http://nsrenewables.ca/documents/NS-COMFIT-Guide-DRAFT.pdf

Draft report by Synapse Energy Economics on the proposed tariff rates: http://www.wind-works.org/FeedLaws/Canada/NovaScotiaDraft_Tariffs_12-10-10%20(2).pdf

Website of the Nova Scotia Sustainable Electricity Alliance (NovaSEA):  www.novasea.ca/site