Access to energy can’t be capped

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Thankfully, the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board has singled out the most gaping hole in the proposed Maritime Link project.

The board on Monday gave a conditional go-ahead to this province’s partnership in the $7.7 billion Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project in Labrador – through an undersea cable – but only with a guarantee of additional access to surplus market-priced energy over the long term.

The deal has long been subject of debate in Nova Scotia. Much of the reservation from critics has had to do with the limitations. Consider that Nova Scotia electrical ratepayers will be footing the bill for the $1.5 billion cable portion. It would supply 10 per cent of the province’s needs under a 35-year agreement. In other words, there’s a cap on what this province gets under the deal as-is.

The URB is saying it can go ahead only if Nova Scotia has a guarantee of greater access in the deal.

Let’s note that the review board found the link would be the best compared to other options for Nova Scotians, but only marginally so. Without insisting on these latest provisions, it could carry the huge capital expense and risk and not deliver the best deal.

So far we don’t know what the response will be from Nalcor Energy, Newfoundland and Labrador’s Crown utility. But keep in mind that Newfoundlanders know what it’s like to be on the losing end of a bad long-term deal – with the province of Quebec on earlier hydroelectric development in Labrador.

Perhaps 30 years from now new energy sources will have been developed, or amazing technology will have advanced to provide better, cheaper alternatives. But we can’t make any assumptions on that. A reliable, efficient power source has to be on tap, now and for the long term.

To accept that Nova Scotia’s utility customers will be paying this kind of money toward the link and possibly have nothing to show 35 years from now is delusional planning. This ruling pulls the plug on that looming pitfall.

Organizations: Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board

Geographic location: Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador, Province of Quebec

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