The Missing Link

The Liberal position on Maritime Link contains an interesting admission. Energy critic Andrew Younger said last week on CBC that the power to flow through Maritime Link may not be needed by Nova Scotia.

The Liberal vision of Nova Scotia is one that doesn’t need more power capacity  – of any kind – because there won’t be any extra economic activity to use it. The Liberals are inherently pessimistic about the prospects for sustained economic growth in Nova Scotia. Only a no-growth economy can say that it doesn’t need new energy – energy exports or industrial expansion simply aren’t on the Liberal agenda.

Stephen McNeilConsider this:  the only government project that Stephen McNeil has supported in the last 4 years is the one that didn’t work out – they voted with the Tories and the NDP to try to save the Bowater mill. All the other successful projects creating jobs across the province the Liberals would have said no to. Those companies would have gone elsewhere and those workers would have moved west. But hey, at least the province would need less energy.

When last in government, the Liberals presided over 10 years of the worst economic performance by Nova Scotia in recent memory. “We may not need the energy” may turn out to be the McNeil Liberals’ most honest statement yet on his party’s plans for an economy that now looks to be emerging from the worst economic crisis since 1929.

Keith MacDonald of the Cape Breton Partnership sees promise in the new green power:

This project is certainly deemed to have a significant impact on the economy and the Partnership will continue to work with Cape Breton companies and community leaders to maximize the economic impacts of the Maritime Link.

Port Hawkesbury Mayor Bill Joe MacLean:

This project will help ensure electricity prices are more stable for many years to come. Importing clean hydroelectricity from Newfoundland and Labrador also helps create regional energy security.

Valerie Payn, Halifax Chamber of Commerce:

The Maritime Link project is an important step towards growing our green energy sector, both for the present and future generations… The Chamber believe this mega project, coined a “game changer” by many, has the potential to harness opportunities to make our province more competitive.

The Maritime Link

Laurent Le Pierrès, in his Chronicle Herald editorial on the Maritime Link project, reasoned away many of the concerns around the electricity plan Darrell Dexter signed with then Premier of Newfoundland Danny Williams.

The fact of the matter is that the price of coal has jumped 70 per cent over the past eight years… The only way to change reality is to alter the facts on the ground.

At the moment, the advent of renewables is cumulatively adding one to two per cent annually to power rates. But the cost of doing nothing is not nothing. Clinging to coal is like staying on an escalator; at least with renewables, you hit a plateau.

There are hidden benefits, too. The less NSP spends on foreign coal — $250 million a year as it now stands — the more it invests in the local jobs that go with renewables. The utility’s economic footprint in Nova Scotia will keep growing since it is required by law to hit a target of 40 per cent renewables by 2020.

This will be difficult to do if the plan to import hydro power from Labrador via subsea cable does not proceed. In terms of energy, Muskrat Falls would deliver to Nova Scotia not only the equivalent of one coal-fired unit, but a stable, fixed-cost supply for 35 years.

Charlie Parker was given the opportunity to answer tough questions about the Maritime Link project on CBC Radio recently, including questions written by the Liberal and Tory parties. It’s worth listening to if you have questions about the cost and the benefits of this project.

Muskrat Rises

Danny Williams and Darrell Dexter at the Muskrat Falls announcement.

Laurent Le Pierrès, in his Chronicle Herald editorial on the Muskrat Falls hydro project, reasoned away many of the concerns around the electricity plan Darrell Dexter signed with then Premier of Newfoundland Danny Williams.

The fact of the matter is that the price of coal has jumped 70 per cent over the past eight years… The only way to change reality is to alter the facts on the ground.

At the moment, the advent of renewables is cumulatively adding one to two per cent annually to power rates. But the cost of doing nothing is not nothing. Clinging to coal is like staying on an escalator; at least with renewables, you will hit a plateau.

There are hidden benefits, too. The less NSP spends on foreign coal — $250 million a year as it now stands — the more it invests in the local jobs that go with renewables. The utility’s economic footprint in Nova Scotia will keep growing since it is required by law to hit a target of 40 per cent renewables by 2020.

This will be difficult to do if the plan to import hydro power from Labrador via subsea cable does not proceed. In terms of energy, Muskrat Falls would deliver to Nova Scotia not only the equivalent of one coal-fired unit, but a stable, fixed-cost supply for 35 years.

One issue not tackled in Le Pierrès’ editorial is why Emera does not import hydro electricity from Quebec instead.

For that to work, there would need to be substantial upgrades to New Brunswick’s energy grid and a far greater capacity built into the transmission link between that province and Nova Scotia. Building better capacity between NS and NB is also part of the Maritime Link plan with Newfoundland to ensure Nova Scotia is not “an energy island,” but the transmission link right now is not effective.

Currently, our province can bring in a couple hundred megawatts from New Brunswick, as long as Moncton does not require that energy during their hours of peak energy usage. But inefficiencies in the transmission system mean that although the distance to Newfoundland is longer, there is no significant “line loss” in hydro supplied by Muskrat Falls.

The high voltage direct current from a Newfoundland cable to Cape Breton would mean Nova Scotia Power would not need to buy 10% more energy then it needs to keep your lights on. Line loss from New Brunswick requires Nova Scotians to buy that extra energy lost during transmission.

Energy from Muskrat Falls will account for about 10% of Nova Scotia’s electricity needs, supplied at a firm rate for 35 years, and provided during Nova Scotia’s 16 peak-usage hours.

The agreement with Newfoundland also gives Nova Scotia Power the ability to purchase another 10-15% of our province’s electricity needs at competitive prices instead of that power going to New England markets.