Parker: Maritime Link right choice for Nova Scotia

1/28/2013

In recent days, there have been op-eds in the paper from Scott Brison, MP, and Dalhousie Professor Larry Hughes relating to the Maritime Link. While I appreciate differing opinions on such an important project, it appears that some facts were overlooked.

This government has an energy plan to ensure the lowest, fairest tax-free electricity rates in the long term for Nova Scotians, and it can be summed up in these five words: local, reliable, green, tax-free and efficient. Our plan includes adding more local and regional cleaner energy to our mix, including wind, tidal, biomass, solar, natural gas and hydroelectricity.

Additional cleaner energy is needed to meet the new federal environmental regulations requiring us to substantially lower greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in this sector by 2030. Energy expert John Dalton released his report last week that looked at three possible options to achieve this. The Maritime Link was found to be the lowest-cost alternative.

Mr. Brison asks if the cost of upgrading the existing connection between New Brunswick and Nova Scotia could cost less than the Maritime Link. The Dalton report compared the cost of electricity from Hydro-Quebec, including the transmission costs to bring the power from Quebec to Nova Scotia, to the cost of the electricity and transmission from Newfoundland and Labrador via the Maritime Link. Mr. Dalton concluded that the Maritime Link is $400 million less than the Hydro-Quebec option.

Mr. Hughes raises the reliability of electricity supply and cited a statement the premier delivered at a recent event. The premierís remarks related specifically to the enhanced reliability our electricity system will have through the Maritime Link. The Link provides us with a second connection to the electricity grid, so if extreme weather shuts down part of the grid, we can still access energy from the other connection point. This second connection greatly enhances the reliability Nova Scotiaís electricity system.

Both authors raise the issue of natural gas in different ways. The province does support the increased use of natural gas. In fact, since 2009, natural gas use has increased faster than our use of renewables. But natural gas has two limitations. It is subject to the same price volatility of other fossil fuels. Mr. Brison said that in May, Massachusetts got 60 per cent of its electricity from natural gas. On June 21, the price of natural gas at Dracut, Mass., was as low as $3.50. On Jan. 22, the high hit $23.85.

Also, as natural gas is a fossil fuel that emits greenhouse gases, we would not be able to meet the 2030 federal reduction targets using 60 per cent natural gas.

The Utility and Review Board will review the costs of all options studied by Mr. Dalton, and determine whether the Maritime Link is the lowest-cost option and in the best interests of Nova Scotia ratepayers.

(Charlie Parker, The Chronicle Herald)