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Summerside is close to signing power deal and is weighing all factors for $23 million back-up electric generator

Steve Howard, right, addresses Summerside City councillors during a recent committee of council meeting. Howard presented to council about his concerns over the city’s possible deal with Kore Energy to install a $23 million generator. MILLICENT MCKAY/JOURNAL PIONEER
Steve Howard, right, addresses Summerside City councillors during a recent committee of council meeting. Howard presented to council about his concerns over the city’s possible deal with Kore Energy to install a $23 million generator. MILLICENT MCKAY/JOURNAL PIONEER - The Guardian

City staff is close to inking a multi-million-dollar deal with Kore Energy to design, build and install a 16-megawatt generator at its Ottawa Street electric plant.

“We’ve established clear priorities and studied many factors, all of which must be met to satisfy the electricity needs of residents, businesses, schools and other institutions,” said Summerside Mayor Bill Martin, in a press statement released hours before the city’s committee of council meeting.

The first priority emphasizes reliability, while the second is security, he said.

In addition to looking into forming a partnership with Kore Energy, staff looked into renewable energy options, like wind and solar, but according to city staff, these do not rank as high as traditional technologies in reliability or security for instantaneous starts.

According to the statement, massive battery storage for wind or solar might solve the instant-on demand, but unlike “tried-and-true” solutions, battery technology is still in its infant stage at the utility scale.

Summerside’s electric plant on Ottawa Street. MILLICENT MCKAY/JOURNAL PIONEER
Summerside’s electric plant on Ottawa Street. MILLICENT MCKAY/JOURNAL PIONEER

The statement says cost, economics and potential of green options couldn’t match the diesel/propane Kore option.

“We’re already a leader in green technology, with our wind farm, our electric-thermal storage program, our uptake of electric vehicles and E.V. chargers, our major solar/storage project at Credit Union Place and our Smart Home Innovation Program. We’ll be unrelenting in our ongoing pursuit of renewable solutions,” said Coun. Brent Gallant.

In addition to self-generation, the city buys more than $1 million each year of added instant-start capacity from New Brunswick Power.

Staff says financing the $23-million new generator will come largely through the avoided costs from the obligation to buy from New Brunswick.

But after hearing about financing options from city staff and a local renewable energy tech supplier, Coun. Gordie Whitlock was left feeling uncertain.

“I think it makes sense, I recognize that we need the capacity, but once you make that 25-year commitment you’re locked in. If there are feasible renewable options, we need to look into that.

“This is the most money we’ve spent in our term as a council. All of the options and information need to be looked at.”

Whitlock is even toying with the idea of leaving the decision to the incoming council at the end of this year. That way they aren’t locked into a capital project they may not support.

“I have no issue making a decision. But I also don’t have a problem leaving it for the next council.”

Steve Howard of Renewable Lifestyles says while he agrees with much of what has been said, the fact that storage options are out there is all the more reason to delay making the investment today.

Everyone seems to agree that green energy is the way they want to move, but there is no pressing need to rush this generator, said Howard.

“(The generator) will end up a stranded asset, meaning its useful life span will be far less than the 35 years in the proposal. With the stranded capital factored and the acknowledged ability to get our needs met by storage, why lock us into the past?”

He added, “We’ve asked for a unicorn. And we’re settling for a horse. Let’s ask for the best horse we can get.”

millicent.mckay@journalpioneer.com

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