Executives at Halifax-based energy conglomerate Emera Inc. were touting the company’s efforts to reduce coal-powered generation, both in Nova Scotia and at its Florida subsidiary TECO Energy, at the company’s annual meeting on Wednesday.
But that wasn’t good enough for a group of residents from the Tampa, Fla. area who travelled to Halifax on Wednesday to attend the Emera AGM. They were mainly complaining about TECO’s Big Bend Power Station, which is being transitioned from burning coal to burning natural gas.
Several of the protesters spoke at the annual meeting, suggesting that TECO should stop using carbon-based fuel to generate electricity at Big Bend and instead the company should concentrate on developing solar and wind generation.
Company president and CEO Scott Balfour, however, said the company is working toward a more sustainable plan for power generation but it can’t happen over night.
He said the protesters and the company are on the same wave length in many respects when it comes to moving away from coal generation, but Balfour told shareholders that a complete break from burning fossil fuels would not be possible immediately because solar and wind generation cannot provide the constant power customers demand.
One of the protesters, Joe Robinson, a former TECO engineer, asked Balfour to tell TECO chief executive Nancy Tower to meet with his group, to answer some of their questions about Big Bend and the environment.
Robinson and the people from Florida indicated they are extremely worried about the effects climate change will have, such as more flooding and storm surge in their state, and they want TECO to stop contributing to it.
Also as representative of the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) in the Tampa area, Robinson said it is often the minority population that is most affected by environmental change and yet ignored when they voice their concerns.
Noting a lack of diversity on the Emera board and the community board at TECO, Robinson said: “Emera, TECO does not like black people. And I say that because we see none on your current boards of Emera or Tampa Electric Co.’s ... Would you please consider adding black people to your boards to reflect the real community that you serve?”
Emera chair Jackie Sheppard responded that Emera is committed diversity and inclusion and have taken some demonstrable steps in that regard.
“We totally respect the position you have taken here, you’ve made some really good points. And I just want to say we’ve made progress, we know we have to make more progress in that area,” Sheppard said.
Balfour followed up by acknowledging that diversity was an important issue for Emera and it is a strategy that is being introduced across the corporation at all levels.
“We’ve done some good work, we’ve done some gender diversity and ethnic diversity — including on the board in Tampa — but we clearly have some more work to do. So, I take your (Robinson’s) comments and bring them into our thinking for sure, thank you for that.”