Just under a month ago, in an editorial headlined “Who’s winning?” we pointed out that Nova Scotia’s Utility and Review Board (UARB) — their equivalent of our Public Utilities Board — had been successful in pushing for additional protection for Nova Scotia ratepayers when it comes to the Maritime Link.
The UARB’s requirement for additional commitments led to Nalcor and Emera promising more Muskrat Falls power for Nova Scotian consumers — power at a rate that would bring down the average consumer blended cost for electricity.
We also said that it looked like the Nova Scotians weren’t done squeezing yet. Here’s exactly what we said: “Nova Scotia’s utilities regulator was able to wrest modifications from the deal’s proponents that will help protect Nova Scotia consumers. They haven’t accepted this new deal yet, and may squeeze out even more before the deal is done. Not only was our provincial utilities regulator unable to do the same for consumers here, they were specifically forbidden to do so by the government. Nova Scotia customers will get a little more security because of their regulator. More power to them — literally.”
That’s beginning to look entirely too true.
Here’s Nova Scotia Energy Minister Andrew Young in a ministerial statement on Monday: “I recognize that the compliance filing does go some way to addressing concerns I, and some other interveners, had in the previous hearing. A significant amount of energy is now guaranteed, a competitive market is assured and Nalcor is prevented from selling energy on long-term contract to anyone but Nova Scotia. As well, Emera and Nalcor would now be financially and legally responsible for ensuring energy commitments are met. These were limitations in the previous deal, and are certainly improvements.
“However, I think we can and should make further improvements to protect ratepayers. Today, lawyers on behalf of the government advised the board on which deficiencies still cause us to withhold our support. … We have also suggested that if the board decides to approve the agreement, that it should address concerns about language that is unclear and could raise the potential for disagreements and challenges in the future. We are not alone in these concerns — we are supported by experts for other interveners. The conditions we are asking for go to the heart of the matter — it must be absolutely clear that Emera and Nalcor accept the risk of failure. Not ratepayers.”
Meanwhile, in this province, the PUB is entirely dealt out of the equation.
No one is considering adding conditions to make sure electrical customers in this province don’t carry all the freight.
And that raises a very interesting question.
If the Nova Scotian government is intent that Nalcor must protect ratepayers in Nova Scotia from “the risk of failure,” who is left to protect the ratepayers of Newfoundland and Labrador from not only the very same thing, but from shouldering some of the risks for Nova Scotians as well?