Changing the Point Tupper biomass generating facility’s must-run status won’t affect employment there and will benefit the province’s ratepayers, a Nova Scotia Power official says.

Sasha Irving, vice-president of communications and public affairs, said in an interview Friday they believe it’s the right decision for customers of the utility.

“It provides us with more flexibility in choosing the type of generation we use to serve our customers,” she said.

On Friday, Stephen McNeil’s provincial government ended a legal requirement to operate the Nova Scotia Power biomass plant located in Point Tupper at Port Hawkesbury Paper as a must-run facility.

The province amended renewable electricity regulations to reduce the use of primary forest biomass for generating electricity. In a government news release announcing the move, it was noted that during the province’s electricity review, Nova Scotians expressed concerns about the use of primary forest biomass for electricity.

The biomass plant employs 38 people, including power engineers and maintenance personnel. The change in operation won’t result in any job losses at the plant, Irving said. It is also not expected to affect operations at the neighbouring Port Hawkesbury Paper mill, or affect the calculation of power rates for the mill.

The operation also supports additional jobs in the harvesting and trucking of biomass. Each year, the plant consumes about 650,000 tonnes of biomass, from a variety of sources, including approximately 20 per cent from Port Hawkesbury Paper.

Critics of the plant have argued that while it may be consuming a renewable resource, the energy it produces is anything but green.

“It means that we will be harvesting less biomass and it will result in fuel cost savings for customers overall,” Irving said. “It’s something that’s been discussed in past regulatory filings.”

Irving said in one of those filings last year, NSP indicated the move could save $6-8 million a year in fuel costs. It is currently analyzing what the savings could mean and then it will be determined how it could be applied to future rates.

“It will be significant savings for customers,” she said. “It could either be applied through the rate stability plan for 2017-2019, which we currently have before the regulator, and that would result in a small decrease in the average of 1.3 per cent increase we have in that plan for each of those years, or the savings could be held and applied to what is forecasted to be an increase in 2020.”

“These regulations placed unnecessary constraints on optimum electricity

system planning and management,” Energy Minister Michel Samson, whose constituency includes the Point Tupper plant, said in the release. “Today, more flexibility is possible, and needed, to produce electricity as economically as possible.”