If N.S. says no, Muskrat costs could soar

Ashley Fitzpatrick
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Premier Kathy Dunderdale


Nova Scotians need and want Lower Churchill power — but if they decide they don’t, Emera will send it elsewhere.

That was the message presented by Emera representatives in the midst of regulatory hearings in Halifax this week, weighing the proposed Maritime Link to connect the power grids of Newfoundland and Nova Scotia.

In a public hearing, a representative for Emera was asked what would happen if the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board (UARB) did not approve the project plan as it stands.

“What we said at the hearing (Thursday) is that if the Nova Scotia UARB does not approve the Maritime Link we would take this to understand that Nova Scotians don’t want the energy,” confirmed Emera spokeswoman Sasha Irving, when asked about the utility’s response.

“As per the sanction agreement, we and Nalcor are committed to the link, but if not approved by (the regulator), we and Nalcor are committed to finding a way forward,” she stated in an email.

“We won’t speculate on what the outcome of that might be.”

From 2008-10, Emera was theorizing what might be developed within Atlantic Canada to help create an “Atlantic Energy Gateway.” Theories on the Maritime Link, as provided in pre-hearing submissions to the UARB, show the tie between Newfoundland and Nova Scotia has been thought of in different ways.

It has been suggested the link might be built with power simply run through Nova Scotia, rather than having some fed out to Nova Scotian ratepayers.

It has also been suggested other routes for the Maritime Link might be undertaken, including a route that would see it connect directly with New Brunswick, though The Telegram was told Emera will not speculate on what alternatives might be put on the table today.

The current focus is on getting a positive response from the Nova Scotia regulator.

“Nalcor Energy is committed to the Maritime Link with Emera as outlined in the sanction agreement,” stated a Nalcor spokeswoman in an email Friday.

There was no response to a question of what happens if the application for the link is not successful before the regulator.

Nalcor Energy CEO Ed Martin has repeatedly told reporters he would not venture down the “what if” path regarding the Maritime Link and has regularly emphasized the strength of the partnership between Nalcor and Emera.

The Government of Newfoundland and Labrador has said the Lower Churchill project would go ahead regardless of whether Emera and Nova Scotia are involved through the Maritime Link.

Even so, “we are confident in Nalcor and Emera’s ability to deliver the Maritime Link, as outlined in the commercial agreements,” said Newfoundland and Labrador Natural Resources Minister Tom Marshall in an emailed statement.

“The Maritime Link is the lowest cost alternative for Nova Scotians,” he said.

“We believe that the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board will see this as well.”

The link and the federal loan guarantee tied to it were presented as a means of both reducing project financing costs by as much as $1 billion and, through the sale of excess power, to more quickly recover overall construction costs.

When the loan guarantee was first announced — in a deal that tied federal support to the creation of that power interconnection between the Atlantic provinces — it was questioned whether Nova Scotia was really on board.

“I ask the premier to be very clear: has Emera and the Nova Scotia government committed to this province that they will sanction this deal without regulatory review and, regardless, that we can count on Emera to participate in this deal regardless of the outcome of the PUB in Nova Scotia?” Liberal Leader Dwight Ball asked in the House of Assembly on Dec. 4, 2012.

“Mr. Speaker,” responded Premier Kathy Dunderdale, “when Newfoundland and Labrador — Nalcor specifically, with the approval of the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador — sanctions this project, the loan guarantee will be available to the people of the province.”

The project was sanctioned Dec. 17, 2012.

The Liberal leader pulled off the road while driving through Gros Morne to call The Telegram Friday.

He accused the Dunderdale government of sanctioning the Lower Churchill project prematurely, not knowing what would happen with the regulatory review of the Maritime Link.

If the regulator in Nova Scotia rejects the project, Ball said, the result will be costly for the province, no matter how it shakes out.

“I do believe the federal loan guarantee is in jeopardy if this doesn’t pass the UARB in Nova Scotia,” he said. 

If the loan guarantee is not off the table altogether, he said, his understanding is it would require an amendment.

If there is a decision by Emera to change the route of the link, the environmental assessment process will have to be taken into consideration.

If there is a delay in construction, there are financial impacts.

NDP Leader Lorraine Michael called the results of the Nova Scotia review “very, very important” for the Lower Churchill project.

Michael also questioned the timing and financial implications of a negative response from the UARB. She questioned Emera’s will to move ahead — it can opt out of the estimated $1.5-billion project before 2014.

On Emera’s stand on Nova Scotia sales: “The thing for me is, what does that mean for us? ... What will that mean for us here in Newfoundland and Labrador?”



Organizations: Maritime Link, Nova Scotia UARB, Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board Atlantic Energy Nalcor Energy

Geographic location: Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador, Halifax Nova Scotia.In Atlantic Canada New Brunswick

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Recent comments

  • Let us ask former Premier Danny Williams some questions on why he thinks the Muskrat Falls Contract is viable at any cost.
    June 03, 2013 - 14:20

    Let's ask Danny Williams to give us his accounting on how he arrived at the point where he thinks that committing the province and the hydro-rate players to the development of Muskrat Falls can float, given the fact that up to $12 Billion dollars is being touted as the final cost of the Project. If I were given the privilege of interviewing Mr. Williams, I would ask him on what kind of protections are built into the Muskrat Falls Contract that protects the province from losing the project to some other entity if it goes South. Mr. Williams should NOT be let off the hook on such questioning. It is a great job for The Telegram and long overdue. If the worse happens he will go down in history as making the worse deal ever put together in the whole of the spectrum we deal with.

  • Keanman
    June 03, 2013 - 10:27

    Let's just hope the NS government offers UARB a scope they can approve. Unlike the NL government which tied the PUBs hands with a narrow scope forcing them to come back with a non recommendation. Getting the upper Churchill back wasn't even in the scope. How can a government be so negligent? Bluderlicious!

  • Jack
    June 02, 2013 - 20:16

    Because Hydro Quebec's power is not very reliable, and also more expensive as it has to go through New Brunswick, the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board will give the Maritime Link its approval to build a subsea cable on condition that Nova Scotia Power and Emera pay for the cost, not ratepayers.

  • Gary Mackenzie
    June 02, 2013 - 19:13

    As a dyed in the wool Nova Scotianer, I don't give a rats hairy ass if Nalcor's costs soar just so they can line a few close friend pockets with the construction of it. If the Newfies wan't to build it, go ahead, we are not stopping you and we are sure as hell not going to finance. Nova Scotia is a Have Not Province Newfoundland and Nalcor are not! So take your Maritime link and shove it!

  • Me
    June 02, 2013 - 17:03

    It is what it is, the train is moving and it ain't stopping. We (Excluding me) elected her, the next election is not that far off!

  • Doug
    June 02, 2013 - 16:46

    Natural gas is where we should be going. The Eastern shore is full of natural gas and the American's have so much of the shale gas. Hydro power will be the expensive option once natural gas starts to be piped and burned. I cannot afford the electricity bill increases and I doubt if my children will either.

  • concerned citizen
    June 02, 2013 - 11:09

    This is just plain crazy. How will people be able to heat their homes. Why didn't they just upgrade what we had and if mining companies want power let them fund the Lower Churchill. People will suffer for the incompetence of others. Seniors,pensioners ,low and middle income families will all suffer because of the arrogance and incompetence of the Dunderdale government . ABC next election.

    • a business man
      June 03, 2013 - 21:02

      While you make some good and valid points, note that it is not all bad. Yes, some people will suffer financially, and will likely lose their homes because they cannot keep up with energy costs. But as those people lose, other people will be able to acquire homes at a cheaper cost. Futhermore, I will benefit as a residential landlord. People losing their homes means more renters, and more renters means that I can charge higher rents. I will make more profits, and the government will tax me more. The bottom line is that policy decisions often create winners and losers. So instead of looking at all the bad that is going to happen, start figuring out how you can cash in. I have.

  • Cyril Rogers
    June 02, 2013 - 10:37

    Muskrat Falls costs are going to soar anyway. NO project of this government, or most governments anywhere, ever come in close to the projected budget. It is inevitable that we will be staring at a 10-12 billion dollar price tag, notwithstanding any loan guarantee, which will only apply to the first 6 billion or so. Guess who pays the rest? Technically, it is the provincial ratepayers but ultimately the government will have to subsidize the project in order to keep NALCOR afloat. That corporation is, and will continue to be, a fiscal money pit, despite Danny's grandiose plans for it when he created it. Kathy is fighting Danny's battles, taking all the flack, and will pay the price he was not willing to pay. Danny Williams fooled the people of this province and Kathy is the sacrificial lamb. Nova Scotia will likely take the power, because it is to their benefit, while we are the poor suckers who subsidize their industry and power rates.

  • Alec C
    June 02, 2013 - 10:13

    Costs could soar EVEN more is an accurate headline. NS ratepayers MIN MF-ML rate will be 12.5 cents kWh - Over 3X the export price of MF power. 20% of the projects cost for 20% of the power - ML is turned over to Nalcor for $1 after 35 years? This sounds like a poorly negotiated contract between a private utility and a Crown Corp hellbent on MF. NS should tighten the screws on MF-ML negotiations to protect their ratepayers - remaining 15 years of ML turns over to NS (NOT Emera) then NL on year 50 for $1. 165MW is low for the considerable cost NS ratepayers will be subjugated to self-finance: 300MW+ or first rite to remaining 335MW of ML @ export price 3-4 cents kWh. MF is a band-aid solution for replacing coal generation in NS - having to travel hundreds of KMs from Labrador and under the Atlantic Ocean, twice no less, offers a stable supply of power? Is Nalcor legally liable if there is a break in the 1,100 KM NL transmission line?What about the ML is Emera 100% liable for that connection? Are NS ratepayers concerned with SNC's heavy involvement in this project? SNC mightn't exist as a company with their recent hurdles in the next few years. If UARB backs out, the federal loan guarantee along with the entire project needs to be immediately stopped. NL CAN'T afford do go alone on this project - banks would demand 30-50% of all oil royalties as collateral without Canada's AAA backed credit rating. $6.3B is the cap of the FLG and Nalcor will be responsible for financing cost overruns - currently $1.4B over the initial DG#s estimate. Interest rates won't remain forever low and Nalcor has yet to prove the market (long term PPAs) exists domestically let alone in exports. Has Nalcor looked at buildings the ML for IMPORT power? 500MW link can be used to import 153,300,000,000 kWh over a 35 year period or up to 4.38B kWh annually. New Thermal or Hydro would need to provide 62B(aprox estimate) kWh over 35 years to replace Holyrood - ML import power offers an additional 170MW over Nalcor's estimated 330MW demand for MF-Avalon or 1489.2 GWh of additional demand. Long Harbor demand is 800 GWh annually to put this into perspective. Nalcor has done a poor job of explaining Muskrat Falls - unrealistic domestic demand projections and overstated export profits- UARB please don't let NS politicians or Emera shortchange your duty to protect NS ratepayers like Nalcor and the provincial PCs did to our PUB! To quote princess Leia in SW EP IV - Help us UARB you're both NL/NS ratepayers' only hope!

  • a business man
    June 02, 2013 - 09:59

    Honestly, from a tactical point of view, Nova Scotia should say no and see what more they can get. I have more investments in Nova Scotia, so I would fully support a deal that completely screws Newfoundland and that benefits Nova Scotia. Of course, this would mean added taxes for Newfoundland taxpayers, but I am okay with that because I will move some assets out of Newfoundland and pay less tax....I am okay with more taxes for Newfoundland because I can move my assets and let the other citizens pay. In short, Nova Scotia has all the bargaining power now because Newfoundland has moved so far towards MF that there is no turning back. Nova Scotia should recognize this and secure better terms for its citizens, terms that will make Newfoundlanders pay more. Hopefully, the lawyers in the room recognize the tactical advantage and use it to get the best possible deal for Nova Scotians. NO matter what was previously agreed to, Nova Scotia can get more because Newfoundland needs them to say yes.

    June 02, 2013 - 06:55

    The Muskrat Falls power should be built The oil fired generator in Duffs Hydro is in the top 10 dirty air polluters in the (WORLD) it burns many millions of barrels of crude each month, The atomic generator that caused all the problems in I think Japan a short time ago, Canada HAS I Think 13 Thirteen of them this can be checked on line, One of them is in Quebec The cost of oil fired generators to operate will go up each year as the demand for oil increases, Atomic power is still not stable as seen in asia a few years ago But the power produced by the Churchill Falls, And the Muskrat Falls when Built Will run forever as an old saying goes " For As Long As Water Runs And Grass Grows" forever Clean and Dependable.

    • Just sayin
      June 02, 2013 - 22:16

      Mr Jefford, to you the cost is not an issue. Mr Clyde Wells said it may be possible to grow cumumbers at the North Pole, but is it economic? 1.You say Holyrood burns millions of barrels of oil each month. At 100 dollars per barrel, that means more than 100 million dollars per month! Fact is about 125 million dollars per year. 2.Production at Holyrood has gone from 25 percent of our total a decade ago to 10.5 percent this past year. 3. In July we are to get a 8 percent reduction in our power bills because oil prices has dropped, not gone up. 4. We are doing little yet in energy efficiency improvements. If we did a robust plan, our costs of power would drop and holyrood use go to zero in a decade, and save billions for unnecessary new generation. 5. Your analysis is false and intentionally misleading.

    June 02, 2013 - 06:45

    byes your awfull brave making all your statements. Nothing to it. The costs don't matter Your right Its the ratepayers money not yours.

  • No priceTags on the Energy Of NL
    June 01, 2013 - 20:38

    I wish I could Hook my house up to another house and get free power by only needing my own extension cord. They'll even pay the cost over runs if it is too pricey. I'll double bill myself then for almost sixty years. They can keep the extension cord after 35 years. I'll be on natural gas then or something almost as cheap.

  • Dianne
    June 01, 2013 - 18:14

    Question for Ms Michael and Mr Ball...If edith One of the Party was in POWER today...Meaning Liberal or NDP...and we were face with this problem...Concerning this project...Would you pull the plug on it...Or CONTINUE with it...Or just blame the PCS...Because it's seem to me...That ye are trying VERY HARD to win votes concerning this project...Now is the time to show LEADERSHIP...Give us your ideas...Not everything NEGATIVE...MS MICHEAL YOU AND MR BALL KNOW THIS IS A GOOD PROJECT...Just to scare to admits it...

  • masterwatch
    June 01, 2013 - 11:54

    I fear Newfoundlanders will find themselves paying much more for electricity. I pity those on low incomes and pensioners. having to choose between food and heat is going to be a serious problem.

  • Wanda White
    June 01, 2013 - 11:18

    "If there is a delay in construction, there are financial impacts." You better believe there'll be financial impacts. What she is NOT telling us is that your grandchildren will be paying this out till THEIR GRANDCHILREN are old. And thats with or without NS. Why do you think the PC's were in such a rush to ram this through!

  • Maurice E. Adams
    June 01, 2013 - 10:58

    It is time for the opposition to demand that government put a stop to this fiasco and to demand accountability for the useless expenditure of hundreds of millions (and potentially billions) of taxpayers' dollars on an unneeded, dinosaur of a hydro project --- a political/bureaucratic project poorly thought out, unjustified and designed to benefit government and a corporate mining sector at the expense of low and middle income taxpayers and ratepayers.

  • concerned taxpayer
    June 01, 2013 - 10:25

    Emera ,Nalcor and SNC Lavalin working on this project. Really makes you comfortable giving them billions of dollars to play with. ABC next election because the bunch we have in there now don't have a clue. We will pay for their mistakes and they will all run off with a pile of money and appointments to mining boards etc...

  • concerned taxpayer
    June 01, 2013 - 10:25

    Emera ,Nalcor and SNC Lavalin working on this project. Really makes you comfortable giving them billions of dollars to play with. ABC next election because the bunch we have in there now don't have a clue. We will pay for their mistakes and they will all run off with a pile of money and appointments to mining boards etc...

  • Tim Jamison
    June 01, 2013 - 10:08

    They can keep burning coal (they've already been burned repeatedly by those price rises), they can hook up to HydroQuebec (we've been burned severely by them and we've been in court about it for decades now and the Nova Scotians should look at that as a warning about the scamming philosophy of the Quebecers), or they can wait for some as yet unnamed technology (a total crapshoot, especially compared to the sweet deal we're offering). Not choosing us would be total, utter foolishness that they would pay for steeply. I think they'll be choosing us

  • Corporate Psycho
    June 01, 2013 - 10:02

    This dud of a project keeps getting worse and worse. Has anyone been looking into SNC contracts? I smell a rat.

  • JW
    June 01, 2013 - 09:53

    Moving back to NL in 2009, after living in AB for 12 yrs was the WORST decission I have made in my life so far. Nothing has changed except for the cost of living. This place SUCKS!!! can't wait to move AGAIN!!

  • John Smith
    June 01, 2013 - 09:03

    We must remember that Muskrat Falls is an answer to our energy needs here in this Province. It will still go ahead, still be viable, and still be the lowest cost alternative even if Emera backs out, and the link is not built. That will only lower the cost of the project by over 2 billion dollars. It will affect the revenue stream, of 200-400 million a year we would have gotten....but other than that...we will still need power....and Muskrat will still be the best way to produce it....

  • Duggan
    June 01, 2013 - 08:06

    Danny's White Elephant. Dunderdale too stunned to know that she would be the fall guy.

  • Whaddaya At
    June 01, 2013 - 07:14

    Oh my Gawd, Danny Dumaresque will ave is hind quarters torn abroad when he gits wind of dis. He'll be on da Hopen Line 'bout Musrat Falls first ting Monday marnin'. Yes sireee.

  • Politicians, Please Stop giving away our natural resources in the raw state.
    June 01, 2013 - 06:36

    The Federal Government and the other provinces have shafted the province of Newfoundland out of its natural resources for the past 64 years and the politicians of our province have allowed it to happen .It is a very STUPID and CORRUPT way of conducting business, but we have caught on to the reason why they do it, it is all done by corrupt minds and the corrupt minds prosper along with the extraneous locations that have become the beneficiary of our natural resources. How in the name of intelligence are we ever going to get ahead in this province if we keep developing our natural resources and passing them on for the betterment of the economics of the rest of Canada and the World, while allowing our own province to languish without developing any appreciable economy. I don't understand how those who held the reigns of power in our province thought that giving away the resources in the raw state could possibly have created a sustainable economy, that included industry, infrastructure, jobs, population growth, etc. What am I missing here to understand this crazy way of thinking by those who have held the reigns of power? We need investigators looking into matters here, just like those investigating the Arthur Porters of the World.

  • Political Watcher
    June 01, 2013 - 06:34

    If this deal falls on our hands then we all take to the streets and force this group of clowns out and get someone in there who will kill the deal. Besides, rumour has it that at least one young member of this Gov't has made several calls to Justin Trudeau's office looking for a way to go back to being red.