Germany has an answer

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From Province House to home by Leo Glavine

Leo Glavine

The Liberty Consulting Group concluded that Nova Scotia Power overspent more than $22 million on fuel in two years. NSP’s response to this was to spend another $2 million to deny the findings. That is why Nova Scotians need to be suspicious and analyze carefully the report by John Dalton of Power Advisory LLC that Muskrat Falls is the best energy plan to add eight per cent of our electricity need over the next 40 years. In an earlier article, I said this would be the NDP/NSP conclusion, based on an untendered, handpicked, friendly consultant.


The most disappointing aspect of the Dalton report is that nowhere to be found is the resulting price of the electricity. The best projection at the moment is that Nova Scotians will pay $1.52 billion to build the Maritime Link, which we will not own after 35 years. What we likely see on our power bills is a separate line item of 2.5 to three per cent annual increase until 2052. In addition, there will be the regular NSP costs added to our bills every two years. This picture is enough to get Nova Scotians thinking about a return of Nova Scotia Power to public ownership.


What John Dalton should have been free to investigate was a Nova Scotia version of the German Plan. Wind turbines produce 10 times more electricity in Germany today than they did in 1999. Most of those are 10 miles out in the Baltic Sea. What’s even more remarkable is that the expansion is modest compared to the growth of solar power. In 1999, Germany had an installed solar capacity of 32 megawatts. In 2012, that figure was 30,000 megawatts. This 1,000-fold increase comes in a nation that gets roughly as much sunlight as Alaska.


This first caught my attention was an email from my son last June, when he noted that today Germany produced 22 per cent of all its industrial, business and domestic electricity from solar power. Let’s not forget, Germany is the industrial giant of Europe. So on a sunny day, Germany is now producing as much electricity as 13 nuclear power plants.


How did wind and solar power take off so fast and so dramatically in one of the world’s largest industrial economies? How did renewable energies of all kinds come to account for more than 25 per cent of the power fed into Germany’s grid - that compares with six per cent in the US?


The answer is not location, it is more about policy. Germany’s Renewable Energy act of 2000 designed a policy to transform the old system completely. The goal was to replace coal and nuclear energy with power from clean, renewable sources of energy: wind, biomass, solar, geothermal and small hydropower facilities. In our province, we have tidal power to add to the mix, and we should be thinking first of all about small-scale turbines like Maine, which are already in the water.


Central to Germany’s new policy was that every German was permitted to produce electricity. This is so contrary to the entrenched thinking of North America, where large centralized power-generation is the only way to produce power. Usually being owned by corporate utilities operating as monopolies.  


Germany’s ‘Big Four’ power companies opposed the new law and declared that smaller producers were too unreliable and intermittent to power the grid efficiently. They insisted that an industrialized nation required a few massive power plants putting out electricity 24 hours a day because it would be technically unfeasible to get more than four per cent of Germany’s electricity from renewable. Wrong - the country now closes in on 30 per cent of all power coming from renewable that are being produced by about 800 companies. In addition, the average German household pays less than the equivalent US household.


In Nova Scotia we can make a choice to continue to pay the highest electrical rates in Canada or we can introduce competition and arrive at the Canadian average. Along with the transformation in the production of electricity, the creation of jobs in rural Germany has been a winning formula. I can imagine the benefits of competition to NSP and the job creation in rural Nova Scotia as a win/win.


Organizations: Nova Scotia Power, Province House, Liberty Consulting Group Power Advisory NDP/NSP Maritime Link German Plan

Geographic location: Germany, Nova Scotia, US Baltic Sea Alaska Europe Maine North America Canada

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Recent comments

  • John Martens
    February 13, 2013 - 15:08

    Mr. Glavin, I too am concerned with Nova Scotia's massive outlay for at best dubious return and I'm sure the costs will double or even triple if the development stays true to form. I too am concerned about the environment but have come to the conclusion that our only alternative is with conservation. Would you google 'Germany wind power failure' especially the article in Der Spiegel which is representative of the articles that have been appearing for the last several years. I have read articles about how Germany has ramped up its coal fired generating stations since the last election when Merkle was no longer dependent upon the Green Party for support. Six new stations have come or are coming on line . I like most people only know what I read in the newspapers, so I would welcome any information you might give me regarding this.

  • David Lacey
    February 04, 2013 - 10:36

    Thank you Mr Glavine! Finally a politician who gets it and isn't afraid to put it in print! What a breath of fresh air!