AMHERST – Nova Scotians will decide their energy future.
That’s one of the messages Chris Huskilson wanted to share with a small gathering of business and political leaders at the Wandlyn Inn Tuesday.
The lunch presentation, organized with the help of the Amherst and Area Chamber of Commerce, was a chance for the CEO of Emera – parent company of Nova Scotia Power – to talk about the Maritime Link project. The link is a proposed hydroelectric ‘pipeline’ starting in Labrador – the primary site is Muskrat Falls – and passing through Newfoundland en route to Nova Scotia.
“It’s the lowest cost, long-term alternative to get us clean energy for the province,” said Huskilson prior to his presentation.
Sasha Irving, director of communications for Emera, said the project is currently with the UARB and that a hearing is scheduled for the second last week of May.
Buy-in to the Labrador project will cost Emera about $1.5 billion – 20 per cent of the project’s cost, entitling Nova Scotia Power to 20 per cent of the hydro project’s output for the next 35 years. Thirty per cent of the money will be sought from investors, with 70 per cent to be borrowed (at a favourable rate, due to a federal guarantee of the funds).
“It provides stability for the long-term,” said the CEO.
Energy prices for the electricity derived from the link – expected to be at least 10 per cent of the energy mix in the province – would drive prices up initially by just under one per cent per year, according to Huskilson. After about five years, prices on electricity from that source would be expected to level out or decline, he said.
The executive called the opportunity a “game changer.”
He didn’t call it a done deal, however.
“Emera has signed no agreements as of today,” Huskilson said, that require Nova Scotia to move forward with the link. That’s a decision, he said, that lies with Nova Scotians.
Those in attendance at the presentation had questions. David Mosley, president of the chamber, took issue with the idea the cost of investing in infrastructure to get the electricity to Nova Scotia should be borne by Nova Scotia ratepayers. And despite assurances by Huskilson to the contrary, Mosley questioned the idea ratepayers won’t be on the hook for possible cost overruns.
“It’s a win-win situation for Emera,” claimed Mosley.
Judi Giroux, the Progressive Conservative MLA candidate when the next election is held, questioned whether we need the project’s influx of power.
“I’m concerned about the final cost of this project to the rate payers of Nova Scotia,” she said.
“If the New Page paper plant closes, we will not need the electricity from this projecy and (will) end up paying even higher electricity rates so that Nova Scotia Power can recover their…investment.”