Labi Kousoulis promises new 'green' fund if he becomes premier

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If Labi Kousoulis becomes premier, his plan for the environment includes a new "green fund."

Money coming to the government from resource sectors would be channelled into "green" innovation, and there would be spending on energy storage to give a boost to renewables.

The former Liberal cabinet minister released the plan Wednesday as part of his campaign to become leader of the Nova Scotia Liberal Party and, consequently, premier.

Kousoulis said in an interview he would make it law that provincial royalties and fees from mining, forestry and petroleum sectors go into a "green fund." Those streams now go into general revenue.

The last time Nova Scotia saw royalties come into general revenue from petroleum was the 2018-19 fiscal year with about $5.9 million. In that same year, Nova Scotia's offshore drilling seemingly dried up, and the province made $61 million in offshore license forfeitures.

Kousoulis said he expects most of his fund would be made up of revenue from the other two departments, mining and forestry, for the foreseeable future.

Last fiscal year, the royalties and fees from mining and forestry that Kousoulis said he would access for the green fund added up to $16 million.

He said if resource revenues started growing in a big way he might consider putting an upward cap on how much could go into the fund.

"There might be a threshold that if the fund gets above a certain amount, if there was no other investments that could be made … we'd have to then direct money into debt reduction or something," Kousoulis said.

Craig Paisley/CBC
Craig Paisley/CBC

Kousoulis said he envisions some of the fund being used to support new jobs and technology.

"It could also be how we fund tidal power … this could be tapped into to keep those projects going or keep that research going as well to try to harness the power of the Bay of Fundy."

Nova Scotia already has one green fund, which takes in all the money the government receives through cap-and-trade. The Environment Act dictates where the money in that fund can go, which includes measures for mitigating and adapting to climate change.

Kousoulis said his proposed green fund would be distinct from the existing one.

Energy storage a top priority

In 2019, Nova Scotia promised action on climate change with the Sustainable Development Goals Act, which says the province will make major carbon reductions by 2030 and reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

The bill did not lay out a clear path for achieving those goals, but the government said the details would be determined through public consultation and formalized in the regulations. That process has yet to begin — delayed by COVID-19.

Kousoulis would not commit to a timeline for creating those regulations, but he has at least one idea for setting Nova Scotia on the way to its emissions reductions targets: improving energy storage.

"We cannot move more to renewables without any type of storage. We are at our capacity."

Kousoulis said that's the message he received while preparing his platform.

Nova Scotia Power currently generates about 30 per cent of its mix from renewable sources. It had a goal of reaching 40 per cent by 2020 but that was pushed back to 2022 earlier this year.

Kousoulis said he does not think those rates can be improved upon without government spending to help the utility build new storage infrastructure, and to subsidize individuals who buy batteries for their homes.

In describing the need for large-scale energy storage, Kousoulis took a dig at the environmental platform of one of his competitors, Iain Rankin, who proposed weening Nova Scotia off coal-powered energy by 2030.

"To sit there and say we're gonna shut down all our coal-fired plants — well, what are we going to do when the wind's not blowing and the sun's not shining? That's where battery storage becomes part of the solution."

In the environment plan he released this week, Kousoulis reiterated his commitment to implementing the recommendations from the Lahey Report on ecological forestry, and said he would reintroduce the Biodiversity Act, which stalled in the legislature last year and was wiped off the order paper when the house prorogued earlier this month.

Kousoulis and Rankin have a third competitor in the leadership race — former Health Minister Randy Delorey. Liberal Party members will elect one of them on Feb. 6.

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