P.E.I. may be next power target for Quebec

Wayne Thibodeau
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Ghiz confirms discussions with Charest

A blockbuster deal that will see Hydro-Quebec purchase NB Power may pave the way for a takeover of Maritime Electric in Prince Edward Island, according to a source in the Quebec government.

Even before the multibillion-dollar deal to buy NB Power, P.E.I.'s main electricity source, was made public, a report in the Toronto-based Globe and Mail said Hydro-Quebec has also approached Prince Edward Island to strike a similar deal.

Charlottetown -

A blockbuster deal that will see Hydro-Quebec purchase NB Power may pave the way for a takeover of Maritime Electric in Prince Edward Island, according to a source in the Quebec government.

Even before the multibillion-dollar deal to buy NB Power, P.E.I.'s main electricity source, was made public, a report in the Toronto-based Globe and Mail said Hydro-Quebec has also approached Prince Edward Island to strike a similar deal.

CBC New Brunswick also reported that Quebec Premier Jean Charest said his province is "negotiating with Prince Edward Island to sign a similar agreement."

Discussions confirmed

P.E.I. Premier Robert Ghiz confirmed he has been in discussions with the Quebec premier since September about purchasing cheaper hydro-generated power from Quebec.

Still, Ghiz would not categorically deny that those talks also included discussions about selling Maritime Electric.

Maritime Electric is a privately-owned utility. It is owned by Newfoundland-based Fortis.

But the P.E.I. legislature has the power to take control of the privately-owned electric utility.

"It's similar talks in the fact that we're looking at working in co-operation with the province of Quebec," Ghiz told reporters on Thursday.

"We do not have a power utility the same as New Brunswick does. New Brunswick is a huge producer of electricity on their own. Maritime Electric is only a distributor. They do not produce electricity."

Ghiz said he's looking at buying cheaper power for P.E.I.

"Maritime Electric is a private company. I can't sell Maritime Electric, so therefore I couldn't make a commitment like that."

The deal announced Thursday by New Brunswick and Quebec would see Hydro-Quebec buy most of NB Power's assets, such as transmission lines, offices and most generation facilities, including the Point Lepreau nuclear power plant, for $4.75 billion. In return, power rates in New Brunswick would be frozen for five years while industrial rates will be cut by as much as 30 per cent to match those in Quebec. The value of those benefits has been estimated at an additional $5 billion.

Fred O'Brien, president and CEO of Maritime Electric, said he's not aware of any talks to sell his company.

But O'Brien also admits he was not aware of the talks between P.E.I. and Quebec to purchase power.

"I know that there's been nobody approach Maritime Electric or Fortis with respect to our assets," O'Brien said.

O'Brien said he's encouraged by the talks between the two provinces because it may mean another source of power for Maritime Electric.

The Guardian

Organizations: Maritime Electric, Hydro-Quebec, NB Power Globe and Mail

Geographic location: Province of Quebec, P.E.I., Prince Edward Island New Brunswick Charlottetown

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