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.

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The Bees’ Knees – Prizes for Week Two

Each week the Legislature is in session we’ll give out four prizes for the best and worst moments, as recorded in Hansard.

Honey Bee

The benefit of Muskrat Falls in terms of 35 years of stable rates and moving off coal are well known. This week, during late debate, Premier Dexter brought jobs into the equation as well.

Premier Dexter: The Maritime Link, which is where most of our investment will be made, has three key elements: (1) it creates an undersea cable link from Cape Ray, Newfoundland, to Cape Breton; (2) it includes two substations on either side of the cable; and (3) it includes the enhanced transmission grid leading to the New Brunswick border.

The construction of the Link will create 2,700 person-years of employment, in Nova Scotia companies with Nova Scotia jobs.

For reminding Nova Scotians of the job implications of the Muskrat Falls project, Darrell Dexter wins this week’s Honey Bee prize for good work.

Drone of the Week

1 drone noun \drōn\
a stingless bee that does not gather nectar or pollen

2 drone intransitive verb \drōn\
to talk in a persistently dull or monotonous tone

Keith Colwell blames everything under the sun, moon and stars on the NDP. Unless it’s a success story – then he claims the government had nothing to do with it.

This week, he said “the price of food has increased by nearly 10 per cent since the NDP took over.” That sort of statement, both inaccurate and overblown, is typical of Colwell.

The price of food goes up and down depending on worldwide supply and demand. Weather and war change food prices – not a change in the government of a Canadian province. Keith Colwell wins the Drone of the Week prize for championing the politics of negativity.

Killer Bee

On a debate about food banks and poverty, Kings North NDP MLA Jim Morton reminded the opposition they had decades to work on poverty issues but did nothing, because the Liberals and Tories did not see poverty reduction as a “vote winner.” This passage below is a good example of how the NDP will rally their base, and wins Jim Morton this week’s Killer Bee prize.

Jim Morton: I think people are there these days because costs are rising in a world that continues to be on the edge of recession. But I think when you look at this bigger picture, we’ve had here in Nova Scotia a very long history of neglect of those people who are most vulnerable in our community.

I recall, before I stood in this House, being in a meeting with two Members of the Legislative Assembly – in fact, they were on the government side at that point – who were talking with a group of citizens about poverty, and who both agreed that in their particular constituencies the issues of poverty and the calls they got in their offices were the most significant calls that they received. They were the highest in volume and the most distressing. But they added to that that it wasn’t possible to talk about those matters because their other constituents just wouldn’t tolerate that, wouldn’t agree with their making that a priority.

I believe that it’s that kind of thinking, turning a blind eye, turning one’s back on poverty, decade after decade, that has left us with so much that needs doing. On the other hand, this government – our government – has been taking a close look at the realities of poverty. We’ve been taking practical steps, even in the midst of tough economic and recessionary times, to do something different.

Bumble Bee

Yarmouth MLA Zach Chuchill chastised the Conservative Party for bringing up Stephen McNeil’s own quotes as proof the Liberals promoted breaking the constituency of Shelburne in two.

The problem? The Conservatives’ point was that Stephen McNeil’s opinion changes with the wind. He spoke out both in favour of dividing Shelburne, and of keeping it whole. Zach Churchill wins this week’s Bumble Bee prize for the error prone.

The PCs distributed the piece below to the press gallery:

The Tories presentation of Stephen McNeil’s two opinions on splitting Shelburne, depending on his audience. Expect more of this from Jamie Baillie’s Conservatives as they try to become the real alternative in voters’ minds.