Experts to help mull Maritime Link

1/31/2013

The provincial regulator has already lined up four consultants to help evaluate the proposed Maritime Link project.

The experts retained by Bruce Outhouse, counsel for the Utility and Review Board, are from the United Kingdom, United States and Central Canada, said a preliminary participants list made public Wednesday.

NSP Maritime Link Inc., a subsidiary of Emera Inc., filed the proposed $1.5-billion subsea cable plan with the board Monday.

That triggered a six-month time frame for the regulator to decide whether the link is the lowest-cost option for reducing the province’s reliance on coal-fired generation.

A hearing is set to begin May 27, and a decision must be made by the end of July.

The experts working for the board’s lawyer include Cable Consulting International Ltd., a power cable firm based in the United Kingdom. Another is Morrison Park Advisors Inc., a Toronto investment bank that provides financial and other advisory services, said its website.

The third consultant, Synapse Energy Economics, Inc. of Cambridge, Mass., has appeared before the board in the past on electricity-related matters.

Rounding out the group is Jan Carr, a Toronto strategic adviser in international initiatives with Gowling Lafleur Henderson LLP, one of Canada’s largest law firms. Carr has a doctorate in engineering and expertise in the energy and infrastructure sectors, said the firm’s website.

Various participants are expected to add more experts in the energy field and other sectors to the hearing lineup.

The deadline for interested parties to apply to be interveners is Feb. 11.

The province has signed up and lists two consulting firms in its initial contingent, Power Advisory LLC of Carlisle, Mass., and TeraTrends Consulting Inc. of Toronto.

Power Advisory, led by John Dalton, recently completed a study for the province that concluded the Maritime Link would be $402 million cheaper over 35 years than importing power from Hydro-Quebec.

Building a mix of wind farms and natural gas plants would cost $1.5 billion more than the cable project, the report also said.

Some customer representatives and energy experts have panned the findings, saying the study was based on too many assumptions.

If the board accepts Emera’s plan, ratepayers would pay for the 180-kilometre cable, which will bring Labrador hydro to Cape Breton via the Cabot Strait.

Emera has formed a joint venture with Nalcor Energy, Newfoundland and Labrador’s Crown-owned utility, on the $7.7-billion Muskrat Falls megaproject.

Emera, Nova Scotia Power’s parent company, will cover 20 per cent of the project’s cost and receive 20 per cent of the electricity for 35 years.

Nova Scotia will get Emera’s share of the hydroelectric power at a fixed rate for 35 years if the board approves the deal. That is enough energy to meet eight to 10 per cent of the province’s annual supply.

There is also an option to buy more at market prices. Emera has estimated that the province will get another 20 per cent of its electricity that way, although the amount could be even higher if transmission upgrades are made.

Emera said it expects the project will add 0.95 per cent a year to power bills for a five-year period, starting in 2018. After that, the proposal will help lower or stabilize rates for another 30 years, the Halifax energy company said.

Opposition parties have said they are not convinced that the project, which is backed by the New Democrat government, is the best way to meet green-energy requirements.

The Liberal party has asked the board to commission an independent study. The Progressive Conservatives want an independent cost-benefit analysis.

(The Chronicle Herald)