Nova Scotia’s approach is how it should be done

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Nova Scotia’s Utility and Review Board has given conditional approval to a proposed subsea cable that would ship hydroelectricity from Muskrat Falls in Labrador to Nova Scotia, saying recently that the Maritime Link (ML) edges out other energy alternatives for the province.

The board made its decision conditional on the project obtaining from Nalcor Energy the right to get the Newfoundland and Labrador Crown utility’s best price for surplus energy based on market conditions.

“The board concludes that the availability of market-priced energy is crucial to the viability of the ML project proposal as against the other alternatives,” it says.

“More importantly, the board finds that without some enforceable covenant about the availability of the market-priced energy, the ML project does not represent the lowest long-term cost alternative for electricity ratepayers in Nova Scotia.”

For these reasons, it says it attached the condition that the project obtains from Nalcor the right to access market-priced energy or provide some other way of ensuring access to energy at that rate.

This is how a regulator should work, protecting the consumer without government interference. Our Public Utilities Board was not allowed to complete its mandate as to whether Muskrat Falls was the least-cost option. They shut them down on March 31, 2012 and started spending in earnest by building a road to Muskrat Falls on April 15, then in June they passed Bill 29 so no one could learn how much Nalcor was spending, or what they were spending it on.

Selling excess power to N.S. was supposed to be what Nalcor said it wanted to do rather than let the water flow over the dam. The problem is that Nalcor intends to sign a take or pay contract with N.L. Hydro for 100 per cent of the power. This is how they can confirm what to charge the ratepayers for the next 50 years.

Signing an agreement with Emera would throw a monkey wrench in the works.

Gerry Goodman

St. John’s

Organizations: Utility and Review Board, Public Utilities Board, N.L. Hydro

Geographic location: Nova Scotia, Muskrat Falls, Labrador

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  • JM
    August 30, 2013 - 12:52

    Gerry... a very good letter to the editor. You are right. If Nalcor agree to the condition set forth by the UARB it will cost the rate payers of Newfoundland and Labrador. Our rates will go up. There is no easy solution to meet the UARB condition, which is why it has been 40 days since the decision, without any real commentary from Nalcor or Emera. The only thing which is certain is that if a deal is reached, the NS rate payers will be in a better position than what was negotiated by Emera alone. The open and transparent process in Nova Scotia will result in lower rates for Nova Scotians. Meanwhile in Newfoundland and Labrador we suffer from the exact opposite.