Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Consumer Advocate, Emera Clash as Muskrat Falls Hearings Get Underway in Halifax

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Consumer Advocate, Emera Clash as Muskrat Falls Hearings Get Underway in Halifax

Article excerpt

Muskrat Falls hearings begin in Nova Scotia

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HALIFAX - Nova Scotia's consumer advocate and utility company Emera (TSX:EMA) clashed Tuesday on the merits of the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project as a regulatory hearing got underway that could determine the province's energy costs for decades.

The $1.5 billion subsea connection that would send Muskrat Falls electricity to Cape Breton would be Nova Scotia's most affordable source of energy, said Nancy Tower, CEO of Emera Newfoundland and Labrador Holdings.

"We have a solution, and one that is not simply a solution, but also an opportunity," she told the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board, which is examining whether the underwater link is the cheapest way for the province to get electricity.

"An opportunity to fundamentally change our electricity market for decades to come and to provide more stable priced energy for Nova Scotia customers."

But John Merrick, the province's consumer advocate, said while the project is a great opportunity for Emera to earn a profit, it may not provide an ample supply of market-priced electricity to Nova Scotia customers.

"To say to us that we should take power for 35 years at a very expensive rate and not get any kind of assurance for cheaper power is a very bad decision for ratepayers," Merrick said.

Under a deal with Nalcor Energy, Newfoundland and Labrador's Crown-owned utility, Emera would get access to 20 per cent of the power produced at Muskrat Falls. In return, Emera would build a 180-kilometre subsea cable known as the Maritime Link, which would transmit power from Cape Ray in southwestern Newfoundland to Lingan, N.S., in Cape Breton.

Merrick said that guaranteed block of power is expensive because it is based on recovering the cost of building the link, echoing a concern of some business groups.

Nelson Blackburn, the small business advocate, said it's clear that the deal will benefit Emera but it hasn't been proven to be the cheapest long-term source of energy for customers.

Both the Liberal and Progressive Conservative opposition parties also argued the proposal should be rejected due to uncertainties over the future availability of Muskrat Falls electricity at market rates. …

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