It may be Canada's second-smallest province, but Nova Scotia is planning to become a green giant when it comes to renewable energy.
The province's NDP government introduced a bold plan Friday that commits the province to getting 40 per cent of its electricity from renewable resources by 2020.
Premier Darrell Dexter said the plan is one of the most aggressive in North America in terms of growing the green energy sector.
"This is the transformation of a province that currently has an electricity supply that's based almost 90 per cent on fossil fuels," he said, referring to the fact Nova Scotia gets most of its energy from coal-fired generating plants.
"We will increase the amount of renewable energy by four-fold by 2020."
California, a green leader in the United States, has committed to getting only 33 per cent of its energy from renewable sources by 2030.
But the premier was quick to note that Nova Scotia can't compare itself with provinces like Quebec, Manitoba and British Columbia, where hydroelectric dams already provide more than 80 per cent of each province's electricity.
Still, Nova Scotia has set a significant challenge for itself. Today only 11 per cent of its electricity comes from renewable sources.
"We are so heavily dependent on fossil fuels that, if we do not make the conversion, we run the real risk ... that our economy will become uncompetitive (and) that ordinary homeowners will see rapidly increasing prices of electricity," Dexter said.
Electricity rates have already jumped 30 per cent in the past five years in Nova Scotia.
Standing atop Dalhousie Mountain in northern Nova Scotia, surrounded by 34 huge wind turbines, the premier said the plan will create hundreds of jobs, but it requires about $1.5 billion in investment from the public and private sector.
Government sources also confirmed the province will need a new transmission line to New Brunswick.
To be sure, the green plan won't come cheap.
Consumers can expect to pay between $10 and $20 more for electricity every year between now and 2015, officials said during a technical briefing. There were no cost estimates beyond that date.
The province has said it wants to get at least 25 per cent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2015, which the NDP government says it will now enshrine in legislation.
"Consumers can look forward to more stable electricity prices and a more secure supply of energy," Dexter told a crowd of about 100 who gathered in the shadow of a massive turbine that whirred in the background.
The Pictou County wind farm, the largest in Nova Scotia, was completed last year at a cost of $130 million. At its peak, the RMSenergy LP site can supply about 17,000 homes with 51 megawatts of electricity.
The province's plan is calling for an additional 300 megawatts of electricity, most of that coming from privately owned Nova Scotia Power Inc. That's enough power to feed 500,000 homes.
Reuben Burge, president of the RMSenergy, said the plan sets a high target but that doesn't bother him.
"With a plan in place, it gives us something to work toward," he said.
By 2020, the province expects wind farms will become Nova Scotia's single-largest source of renewable energy. But the province is also looking to boost investment in tidal power in the Bay of Fundy, while enhancing other sources.
Other initiatives include:
_ encouraging community-based electricity projects by offering a fixed price for power at a rate that will help cover costs and provide a small profit;
_ expanding the use of net-metering, which credits consumers for the energy they produce from wind, solar and other renewable sources;
_ putting a cap on the use biomass, which involves the burning of wood waste from the forestry industry;
_ and encouraging the use of locally produced natural gas.