05/14/2012 03:16 EDT | Updated 07/14/2012 05:12 EDT

Nova Scotia says it wants 10 per cent of power supply coming from tidal energy

HALIFAX - The government of Nova Scotia has set a target to replace 10 per cent of the province's current power supply with tidal energy over the next decade and beyond as part of its vow to reduce fossil fuel consumption.

The provincial Energy Department released a marine energy plan Monday that is aiming for 300 megawatts of power to be generated from tidal energy by around 2020.

"Harnessing marine renewable energy is certainly an exciting opportunity," said Energy Minister Charlie Parker.

"It will bring long-term benefits to our province, both in diversifying our energy portfolio and in growing our economy."

The strategy maps out the research, development and regulations needed to develop a marine renewable energy industry in the province, focusing mainly on tidal energy.

It also sets out general timelines, with the Fundy Ocean Research Centre for Energy — a government and privately funded testing facility — scheduled to begin work on developing test devices as early as this year.

Barbara Pike, executive director of the Maritimes Energy Association, says the strategy is an important step in the development of the tidal energy industry.

"If you take a look at how they're planning to proceed with it by building the research, by looking at technology development and ... marketplace and supplier development, all of those are key steps that have to be taken."

Tidal energy experiments in the Bay of Fundy are part of the province's aggressive bid to generate 40 per cent of its electricity from renewable resources by 2020.

The strategy was based on 27 recommendations made by Bob Fournier, who was hired by the province last fall to lead consultations on the drafting of marine renewable energy legislation.

Parker says the legislation will likely be brought in next spring.

But Liberal energy critic Andrew Younger says the strategy's goals are ambitious.

He said while he believes the strategy makes sense, he said he would have liked to see it released before the current session so the legislation could have been carefully reviewed.

"If we want to have companies out there developing tidal energy and looking for cost-effective options to reach that 300 megawatts target, then they need to know what the game plan is going to be, they need to know what the rules are going to be," said Younger.

Younger said he also fears the strategy will end up sitting on a shelf if there is an election next spring.

Wave energy and offshore wind were also outlined in the strategy as potential sources of renewable energy.