Premier and opposition parties disagree on Maritime Link report
-by John Gillis
Expect power rates to be a political football if Nova Scotians go to the polls later this year.
Last week marked the release of a report from an independent expert saying that the Maritime Link will deliver the lowest-cost energy for Nova Scotians.
The report examined three possible energy production scenarios using proprietary computer modelling covering a period of 2015-2052. Those were: 1) examination of participation in the Lower Churchill Project including construction of a Maritime Link; 2) negotiation of a contract with Hydro Quebec and 3) additional domestic (including wind) and natural gas generation.
The report was commissioned by the province, but the opposition parties say it was kept secret until now and only released after intense public pressure to do so.
John Dalton, an expert on the New England and eastern Canadian energy markets, released his Maritime Link report on January 17th. In it he outlined alternatives to meet federal greenhouse gas reduction targets for 2030 and beyond.
“The Maritime Link scenario is less expensive than either of the two primary alternatives,” said Mr. Dalton. “The modelling indicates that, under a reasonable range of market outcomes that we evaluated, the Maritime Link offers a lower cost than hydroelectricity from Quebec or developing additional wind and natural gas in Nova Scotia.”
Premier Dexter agreed and noted that Maritime Link is the best option to that guarantees Nova Scotia can meet 2015 (25 percent) and 2020 (40 percent) renewable energy commitments.
“The Maritime Link project will provide Nova Scotians with the lowest, fairest electricity rates possible in the future,” the Premier said. “We are putting in place sound policies to ensure power rates are more stable, and the Maritime Link project is a key piece of that plan. This is the right choice for the people of this province.”
Energy Minister Charlie Parker echoed Premier Dexter in his support.
“We need to move away from coal and diversify our electricity mix. Our over-reliance on coal is a problem negatively affecting electricity prices and our environment,” said Parker.
The report and the NDP government claim that the Maritime Link is the only option that provides Nova Scotians with: A) a reliable source of clean energy with predictable prices for 35 years; B) a second connection to the North American grid, increasing the reliability of the electricity system; C) the flexibility to access more options for purchasing competitively priced electricity in the future; and D) the ability to balance more local renewable sources such as wind.
The report says importing hydroelectricity from Quebec could be as much as $400 million more expensive than the Maritime Link option, while adding a natural gas/wind combination could be as much as $1.5 billion more.
Nova Scotia Liberal Party leader Stephen McNeil said this week that the Dalton report relied too much on data from Emera, Nova Scotia Power’s parent company, a partner in the project with Nalcor Energy of Newfoundland. McNeil says the report also failed to probe the Quebec Hydro alternative in sufficient detail – noting that nearby New Brunswick has proven that a feasible long-term electricity deal with Quebec is possible. McNeil also complained that the Dexter government jumped the gun in signing an agreement on the Lower Churchill Project before releasing this report and prior to conducting due diligence on long-term natural gas pricing.
Nova Scotia Liberal Andrew Younger raised concerns regarding potential long-term power outages on the Muskrat Falls line that was cited in a Manitoba report on the project as well as uncertainty over possible escalating construction costs and the fact that he says Emera has been unable to tell Nova Scotians what to expect to pay for this power.
“Neither Premier Dexter nor anyone at NSP’s parent company Emera can tell us what we’ll be paying for the power from Muskrat Falls – what we do know is that this deal will result in 2-3 per cent rate hikes for 35 years. We won’t own the infrastructure at the end of this agreement, and the cost to build the Maritime Link has already increased by 25 per cent to $1.5 billion,” said Younger. “If this deal represents our energy future, then Nova Scotians have a right to be concerned,” he added.
Nova Scotia Progressive Conservative leader Jamie Baillie was also critical of the Dalton Report. He said he would have liked to see a price per kilowatt hour on the options.
“A hundred thousand dollars later and we still don’t know how much Muskrat Falls is going to cost ratepayers when it reaches their doorsteps. Nova Scotians deserve a full, transparent cost benefit analysis of Muskrat Falls, comparing it to all the alternatives, before it goes to the regulator,” Baillie added.
The Oran did not receive local responses on the issue from SuGen Research, Celtic Current or Scotian Windfields prior to press time. With the way this issue is shaping up don’t expect the debate over Nova Scotia’s energy future to end any time soon.
The UARB is expected to examine options and determine whether the Maritime Link is the lowest-cost option and in the best interest of Nova Scotia ratepayers.
The complete Dalton report can be found at novascotia.ca.
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