It’s that old Chinese curse: “May you live in interesting times.” But what’s more interesting is just how quiet these interesting times have become, especially when it comes to this province’s multi-billion-dollar venture at Muskrat Falls, along with the changing circumstances.
© Tara Bradbury/TC Media
First of all, it’s been weeks since the Nova Scotian equivalent of the public utilities board essentially said that the deal to build a maritime link in exchange for electricity wasn’t juicy enough: the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board (UARB) wants the players in the deal to ink contracts to guarantee additional power to Nova Scotia customers at a fixed low rate. No one’s been talking about how that might change the water on the beans for the economics of the project.
It’s far from the only change on the horizon.
Now, Emera, the Nova Scotia utility that’s one of the customers for Muskrat Falls power and the partner in the maritime link, is certainly seeing the changes in the utility world. They see those changes so well that they’re investing in natural gas-powered generation.
Have a peek at this, from Yahoo! Finance: “Emera Inc. (EMA.TO) has entered into an agreement to purchase three combined-cycle gas-fired electricity generating facilities in New England from Capital Power Corporation (CPX.TO). The transaction will add 1,050 megawatts to Emera’s generation capacity in the northeast, and represents a total investment of $541 million.
“The facilities, all of which are of recent vintage, are Bridgeport Energy (520 MW) in Bridgeport, Connecticut; Tiverton Power (265 MW) in Tiverton, Rhode Island; and Rumford Power (265 MW) in Rumford, Maine.”
But that’s not the only change coming from Nova Scotia: a provincial election was called over the weekend for Oct. 8, and observers say power rates are going to be part of the political equation. The governing NDP, supporters of the Muskrat Falls deal, are seen as trailing right now, and here’s the kind of messaging coming from the current leaders, the Liberals: “(The NDP) has chosen corporate interests over the interests of Nova Scotians, and as a result, the day-to-day concerns of Nova Scotians have been neglected,” Liberal Leader Stephen McNeil said at an election kickoff. “It’s time for change.”
One of the changes? McNeil is promising to end the electrical power monopoly enjoyed by Emera’s subsidiary, Nova Scotia Light and Power.
“An end to the monopoly will mean Nova Scotians will have the right to choose their energy provider. Ending the monopoly will provide stability within a regulated and competitive market. Eventually the forces of competition will drive our electricity rates down,” he told CBC News.
Another statement that might cause a little concern in the halls of power in this province?
“For the last four years, Darrell Dexter and the NDP have walked hand-in-hand with Nova Scotia Power,” McNeil said Sunday afternoon. “As a result, the Dexter government has always supported Nova Scotia Power over Nova Scotia ratepayers. … A new Liberal government will end the cosy relationship with Nova Scotia Power and create a system built on the principles of consumer choice.”
But if any of this causes the least little concern with our provincial government, we’re sure not hearing it. Very little is being said about former PC cabinet minister Shawn Skinner’s concerns about tendering on the giant project, and nothing’s being said about how well the
project is staying on budget and
on its timeline. There’s precious
little being talked about when it comes to the federal loan guarantee and what the UARB’s fundamental change to the deal does to the guarantee’s prospects.
Come to think of it, wasn’t financing for the project supposed to have been sorted out months and months ago? Have bonds been placed? Are there interested lenders? What are those lenders planning to charge us in terms of interest? Are the prospects of looming interest rate increases any concern?
Is there anyone even at home on Confederation Hill? It’s like yodelling down a well here.
Russell Wangersky is The Telegram’s editorial page editor. He can be reached
by email at email@example.com