From the Halifax Chronicle Herald:

A new report released today by the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies (AIMS) is calling on Nova Scotia to capitalize on the opportunity to develop natural gas in the region.

“It is vitally important that Atlantic Canada gets the infrastructure and regulatory settings correct to support an evolving energy mix,” said Andrew Pickford, author of the report. “Doing so will help the region put downward pressure on electricity prices, lower carbon emissions and ensure decisions on the future energy mix are made locally.”

The report, Gas Opportunities for Atlantic Canada, examines the overall regulatory framework, planned infrastructure projects, and emerging natural gas opportunities and technologies. Restrictions on the expansion of natural gas in Atlantic Canada could make electricity more expensive, less clean, and result in people outside the region influencing local energy choices, the report argues.

“By deciding to place a moratorium on a particular form of natural gas extraction, the province misses out on investment, jobs as well as royalties and taxes for governments,” said Pickford. “The opportunity for greater levels of natural gas extraction and production is available. Many other jurisdictions, including some in Canada, have chosen to pursue and actively seek investment in this industry. Those decisions are paying economic dividends.”

Nova Scotia has a moratorium on shale gas development.

“It reduces investment in the energy sector and it changes the energy mix that would evolve under normal conditions if the ban was not in place,” said Pickford.

“The moratorium also sends a broader signal to investors that governments may make ad hoc policy decisions that are not based on evidence or science after significant investments are made. This increases sovereign risk perceptions and can reduce investment flows and jobs, which we have already witnessed in parts of Atlantic Canada.”

The four Atlantic Provinces would benefit from the twin developments of increased natural gas use as well as the major changes in the energy market occurring in North America and elsewhere in the world, he argued.

“This is an important and complex industry and planning our energy mix and the necessary infrastructure cannot be changed overnight,” said Pickford. “There are also clearly strong views on natural gas extraction, although this relates mainly to hydraulic fracturing. One issue which we identified is the need to consider infrastructure and emerging technologies that might benefit Atlantic Canada and consumers. Another that we highlighted in our report is that existing policies are not cost free.”

Those technologies and developments include virtual gas pipelines, microgrids, microturbines, fuel cells gas storage and Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) export facilities, he explained.

“Part of the problem with various bans and restrictions is that they are wrongly presented as a cost-free policy when they incur higher energy costs,” said Pickford.

Quantifying the costs and determining the long-term impact of restrictions on some forms of natural gas extraction will be useful to properly weigh up options, he said.

“We are calling for a broader discussion over the natural gas options available to Atlantic Canada,” said John Williamson, AIMS vice president of research. “We encourage those who have a different view on the optimal energy mix and extraction methods to produce research data on the impact of banning certain forms of natural gas extraction and to propose energy alternatives that consider the costs to consumers, specifically families and businesses.”

The Nova Scotia Fracking Resource and Action Coalition, an opponent of natural gas development in the province, did not respond to requests for an interview.