N.S. sets terms for power link approval10/9/2012
Energy firm Emera will have to show moving power over a subsea cable from Newfoundland to Cape Breton is the cheapest long-term electricity option, Energy Minister Charlie Parker said Friday in releasing terms for a review of the project.
The terms apply to the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board’s look at the 180-kilometre Maritime Link, first estimated to cost $1.2 billion. The price has risen, but Emera hasn’t said the amount.
The link is part of the Muskrat Falls development that would bring hydroelectricity from the Lower Churchill River in Labrador to Newfoundland, and on to this province. The entire project, a deal between Emera and Newfoundland and Labrador Crown corporation Nalcor, had been expected to cost $6.2 billion, but other pieces besides the Maritime link have also increased in price.
The regulations say the board can only review the project if it “represents the lowest long-term cost alternative for electricity for ratepayers in the province.”
Parker said that means the board can consider options like importing hydroelectricity from Quebec.
“Absolutely. Their role is to look at all the alternatives and see if the Maritime Link is the best or lowest-cost option for Nova Scotians,” Parker said in a telephone interview.
The board will have six months in which to make a decision after the application is filed, say the regulations. Emera spokeswoman Sasha Irving said the application should be before the board this fall.
She said the company, Nova Scotia Power’s parent, is reviewing the regulations and working on a new cost estimate for the project.
Progressive Conservative Leader Jamie Baillie said he thinks the regulations limit the options the board can examine. He’s also concerned that the province’s economy isn’t strong enough to support the pace of the NDP government’s move to renewable energy.
Baillie wants to see an analysis of just how much power the province is expected to need, considering one of the biggest consumers, the Bowater Mersey Paper Co., has shut down and the biggest customer, the mill in Point Tupper that just restarted, is running one paper machine instead of two.
Baillie said the bottom line for ratepayers is the government hasn’t allowed the review board enough flexibility to consider the affordability of the project.
“It’s like telling us we can buy the lowest-priced BMW on the lot, regardless of whether we can afford any BMWs,” he said.
The Ecology Action Centre, which has called for a review to look at alternatives like Quebec hydroelectricity and more renewable projects in Nova Scotia, was pleased with the regulations.
“We’ve been calling on the Nova Scotia government and the (review board) to conduct a comprehensive review that includes cost-benefit analysis of all of the options, and it’s great to see that that’s happening,” said Catherine Abreu, the Halifax centre’s regional energy co-ordinator.
Under the deal, Emera is to receive 20 per cent of the power for 35 years, for 20 per cent of the cost of the entire Lower Churchill project. That’s expected to cover eight to 10 per cent of the province’s energy needs.
(The Chronicle Herald)