UARB: feed-in tariffs require political, not regulatory, decision

The UARB says any decision to implement feed-in tariffs will have to come from government, not the board.

Feed-in tariffs would guarantee pre-set, above-market rates for alternative power producers who want to feed surplus power into the NSP grid at will. It is strongly advocated—surprise, surprise!—by companies like Neal Livingston’s Black River Wind, which have not been able to compete with large commercial wind producers in NSP’s bidding process, but stand to profit from guaranteed access to the grid at above-market prices.

At the biomass project hearings, the Ecology Action Centre argued that NSP’s bidding (or RFP — request for proposals) process carries a high risk of contract failure. This has certainly proven true in the present round of wind power projects, several of which have run afoul of credit problems. But the suggestion that this is due to some inherent problem with competitive bidding, as opposed to the current financial crisis, seems implausible.

In contrarian’s view, environmentalists do not advance their cause by placing themselves in opposition to competitive bidding. In the far more important view of the UARB, feed-in tariffs lie outside its regulatory authority:

While feed-in tariffs may or may not be a desirable feature to be considered in Nova Scotia, it is clear, based on the jurisdictional findings in this decision, and more importantly the jurisdictional findings in the Black River and Barrington Wind cases, that the Board, under the PUA as currently drafted, does not have the authority to order feed-in tariffs. It appears that in Ontario and elsewhere, where variations of the feed-in tariffs have been used, it has been a matter of Government policy to set these tariffs.