HALIFAX—Nova Scotia’s energy minister is welcoming a decision approving a revised agreement to proceed with the $1.5-billion Maritime Link project, saying it protects the interests of power customers in his province.
Andrew Younger said he is satisfied with the ruling from the province’s Utility and Review Board.
“Our first interest has always been the protection of Nova Scotia ratepayers, that’s why government pushed to improve the deal,” Younger said in a statement.
“We have reviewed the board’s decision and are confident that ratepayers are better protected, and that Emera and Nalcor will bear the project risks, not ratepayers.”
The deal between Emera and Nalcor Energy, Newfoundland and Labrador’s Crown energy company, would see the construction of a 170-kilometre subsea link between southwestern Newfoundland and Cape Breton that would ship hydroelectricity from the Muskrat Falls project.
Nova Scotia’s Utility and Review Board tentatively endorsed the Maritime Link earlier this year, but it attached a list of conditions to ensure it doesn’t impose a heavy burden on the province’s electricity customers.
“The board is satisfied that the conditions outlined in the Maritime Link decision have been met and that the Maritime Link Project is approved in accordance with the Maritime Link decision and this supplemental decision,” the board said in its decision.
“The benefit of the (agreement) is that it will provide (Nova Scotia Power) with real and tangible advantages when it participates in the energy market. These benefits will necessarily flow to its customers.”
Emera said the board’s ruling confirms its long-held position that the Maritime Link is the cheapest long-term energy option for customers of Nova Scotia Power, its subsidiary.
“The $1.5-billion investment in the Maritime Link will provide benefits to Nova Scotia customers that significantly exceed the value of the investment over the life of the project,” Emera CEO Chris Huskilson said in a statement.
During the board’s hearings earlier this month on the revised agreement, Nova Scotia’s consumer and small business advocates said they couldn’t support it because it isn’t in the interests of the province’s ratepayers.
Under the agreement, ratepayers in Nova Scotia would pay for the link through their electricity bills.
The 35-year deal would see Nova Scotia supplied with 20 per cent of the energy from Muskrat Falls in exchange for paying 20 per cent of the costs of the $7.7-billion project.
The agreement also grants Emera a commercial guarantee from Nalcor for access to cheaper market-priced power above the 20 per cent block agreed to, the board concluded.
Emera and Nalcor Energy are aiming to have power flowing from Muskrat Falls in 2017.
Huskilson said one of the next steps is to finalize a federal loan guarantee that aims to save Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia more than $1-billion in borrowing costs for the Muskrat Falls project.
Construction is already underway on Muskrat Falls in Labrador.