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A new study will explore options to secure a more stable natural gas supply for Nova Scotia.
The province is issuing a request for proposals to examine challenges like price volatility and how best to meet present and future demand for nature gas.
"Natural gas is an important part of the province's plan to further diversify our energy mix to include several sources like wind, tidal, biomass and hydroelectricity," said Energy Minister Charlie Parker. "It also helps us reduce our dependence on dirty, expensive coal, and move toward cleaner and more renewable sources.
"This will help us meet our federal coal requirements to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and lead to lower, more stable electricity prices for Nova Scotians over the long term."
The price of natural gas in Nova Scotia tripled in December mainly because of offshore supply issues and availability from the Boston market. The price dropped slightly in January, but the spike was still noticeable on bills, especially for large users.
"While switching to natural gas can cut energy costs and reduce harmful emissions, this issue reinforces the need to identify the factors that impact access and how to address them," said Parker.
Jeff Lamb, Dalhousie University's assistant vice-president of facilities, said the university achieved significant savings by converting to natural gas several years ago.
"However, a variance in the price of natural gas like we experienced in December is a huge issue for us and we had a $400,000 budget variance for that month alone," said Lamb.
"Instability of that magnitude takes money away from the primary educational mission of the university and any steps the provincial government can take to ensure price stability, such as a study of this nature, is heartily supported."
The study will:
-- map existing and potential natural gas supply, demand and markets in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and the northeastern United States
-- examine the investment needed to reverse the flow of natural gas in the Maritimes and Northeast Pipeline if local demand exceeds supply
-- examine current and forecasted demand in the Maritimes and the infrastructure limitations to meet demand
-- identify and explore natural gas supply scenarios that could impact Nova Scotia consumers
Heritage Gas provides natural gas to 20,000 households and businesses, including hospitals, universities and energy-intensive industries in Nova Scotia.
In 2012, government allowed heavy power-using industries that cannot access natural gas from the pipeline to receive compressed natural gas by truck.
The study is due by the end of March. The request for proposals will be issued Jan. 16 and available at www.gov.ns.ca/tenders .