Summerside should rethink its plan to purchase a nearly $20-million diesel generator to combat future electrical demands, a new report says.
Dunsky Energy Consulting was contracted last year for $75,000 to study the city’s future energy capacity needs following discussions at Summerside City Council about the potential installation of a 16-megawatt dual-fuel turbo-generator.
“The original solution of the diesel generator would have helped with a near-term need,” said Julie-Ann Vincent, a senior consultant with Dunsky.
“The generator was looking at a near-term need but wouldn’t address all of Summerside’s capacity constraints.”
The study produced by Dunsky is a cost comparative rather than “hard-dollar” total.
The report included stakeholder consultations, research looking at other jurisdictions, and research into Summerside’s capacity.
“We looked at all of the potential options, narrowed them down … and then analyzed those from a financial and quantitative standpoint,” explained Vincent.
“What is Summerside’s context? There are things that look good on paper and technical solutions, which are very important – they’re critical for utility planning. But it’s also important that you have buy-in and support from customers. We didn’t want to come in and say, ‘here we are, we don’t live in Summerside, but here are our recommendations and we haven’t considered what you think’.”
They also looked at other regions that are leaning towards new and developing options.
Vincent said an automatic reaction to the report may be the question, ‘why aren’t we looking at solar and wind?’
“Solar and wind are important additions and considerations for utilities going forward for energy planning. Utilities are required by NERC to plan for peak demand – the time of year when the most electricity will be used on the system plus a 15 per cent buffer.
“In terms of solar, it’s important energy through the rest of the year so that you can reduce use on diesel or other non-renewable sources. But the sun isn’t shining in the evening in the winter.”
The contract the city has with New Brunswick to import electricity is coming to an end in the coming months, leading city staff and councillors to seek possible alternatives, including the turbo diesel generator.
Dunsky determined a stacked option was best.
“We suggested a number of small options implemented over time to allow the city to monitor changes in cost, renewability requirements, flexibility and adaptability,” Vincent explained.
Their recommendations are also the cheapest – demand-side options, things that customers can do rather than what the utility can do.
“We suggested the utility expand its interruptible load program for industrial program. So industrial customers agree to shut down some of their demand during times of peak load, as well as use more of the heat for less now program. As a first step, it’s a cost-effective option.
After that the city can implement a pilot to test utility scale battery storage.
“They are still in testing phases. They haven’t been in play at a utility scale for very long and costs are still decreasing. So, in 2023 to 2025, implementing a battery will allow the city to use its solar and wind resources to charge the batteries off peak.”
A fourth option, if needed, could be a bio-diesel generator if there is still capacity deficits.
Vincent said it’s important for utility systems to have diversity as it allows for more stability.
Steve Howard is the owner of Renewable Lifestyles and a vocal opponent to the multi-million-dollar diesel generator.
“The Draft Capacity and Resource Planning report shows us that there are several options on the table for our city and that it was a wise decision by our council to defer the decision until more information was presented,” said Howard.
“The report uses some very conservative pricing information in the battery storage section and still by 2023 the investment is a net positive for Summerside ratepayers, improving every year. There is a great deal of information to take in here.”
There will be public consultations on Feb. 28 for citizens and the public to attend, ask questions and learn more about the options present. They will be held at Credit Union Place from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. and 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.