Do Rising Tides Lift All Boats?
by emshevs on November 25, 2016 - 10:32pm
On November 24th 2016, the Canadian province of Nova Scotia has, for the first time in North American history, set up the first successful, energy-producing turbine located at the bottom of the Midas Passage in the Bay of Fundy. The article describes the turbine as 1000 tonnes in weight, five-storeys in height and is able to generate two megawatts of electricity – enough to power 500 homes. Although providing power through the novel tidal installment is 8 times more expensive than traditional power generation in the province, monitoring of the turbine has shown that there has been no harm to fish or mammals since it’s installment and provides a much lower atmospheric impact than conventional fossil fuel energy production (particularly coal) in the province.
The installment of this turbine demonstrates that a transition toward a low-carbon future is feasible – as the Energy Minister describes its successful installment as the “ushering [of] a new era and taking unprecedented steps toward a low-carbon future”. Although there are several proponents to the turbine, not all stakeholders are in agreement which highlights one of the several conflicts in natural resource management. Fishermen in the bay of Fundy have provided some of the largest backlash as they believe the turbine will pose a threat to the lobster industry. Some of the other stakeholders involved in this project are the Nova Scotian government (particularly the Ministry of Energy), Nova Scotian power consumers, Cape Sharp Tidal, Fundy Ocean Research Center for Energy (a non-profit company with a government mandate to oversee the development of the technology and monitory it’s impacts) and the Nova Scotia Power Inc. who is in charge of generation, transmission and distribution of electricity in the province.
Upon reading this article, I believe that the successful establishment of this turbine serves as a milestone for Canada and as a demonstration that we are headed into a transition away from our fossil-fuel society. Because our society is completely dependent on fossil fuels and our infrastructure is a reflection of this, we are currently finding ways to harvest other perpetual sources of energy that will serve as cleaner energy sources compared to fossil fuels who emit high levels of greenhouse gases. This project demonstrates that we capable technologically and economically of transferring into a fossil fuel-free society but in this transition, several trade-offs need to be faced and who bears the costs and benefits of these tradeoffs can become a messy situation. When considering the turbine, we need to decide whether a costlier yet more environmentally-sound energy source such as the turbine outweighs the losses encompassed by the fishermen whose lobster industry will suffer due to its installment. In order to address these conflicting values, I suggest that the province engages in Roundtables in order to assess all the stakeholder values to make clear prioritization of actions and compensations if losses should be felt.
The state is legitimized due to its requirement to provide us access with affordable forms of energy and is considered a special sector of the economy. Because the state has decided to close all Canadian coal power by 2030, the government is demonstrating a true commitment towards the environment which leaves me feeling optimistic for the future of Canada’s energy sector – with tidal energy to play a large role.