Nova Scotians will find out Friday how much the Maritime Link will cost them.
Chris Huskilson, president and chief executive officer of Emera Inc., is expected to release that information, and other project details, during a speech at a Maritimes Energy Association luncheon in Halifax.
A Emera spokeswoman wouldn’t say Thursday whether the project will also be filed with the provincial Utility and Review Board Friday.
“We’re within days of filing. I can tell you that,” Sasha Irving said.
Premier Darrell Dexter said the regulatory filing, when it is made, will show that the project is expected to have some impact on rates but only in the short term.
“The Maritime Link portion of electricity to the region will mean less than a single per cent in terms of rate impacts for the first five years, and after that will be stable and will actually decline in terms of its cost to ratepayers, ” Dexter told reporters in Lunenburg.
Emera is partnered with Nalcor Energy, Newfoundland and Labrador’s Crown-owned utility, on the $7.7-billion Muskrat Falls hydroelectric development.
Emera, Nova Scotia Power’s parent company, will cover 20 per cent of the project’s cost and receive 20 per cent of the electricity.
Emera is asking Nova Scotia ratepayers to pay the estimated $1.3 billion to $1.5 billion cost of building the link, a subsea cable across the Cabot Strait.
In return, the province would get Emera’s share of the electricity at a fixed price for 35 years. That represents eight to 10 per cent of Nova Scotia’s power supply, with an option to buy more at market prices.
Customer representatives and energy experts say the provincial regulator should take a close look at the project’s potential price tag, as well as possible alternatives.
Consumer advocate John Merrick said he wasn’t swayed by a provincially funded study, released last week, that concluded Labrador hydro is the cheapest option.
The study, by United States consultant Power Advisory LLC, found that Muskrat Falls power would cost ratepayers $402 million less over a 35-year period than Quebec hydro and $1.5 billion less than building a combination of wind farms and natural-gas plants.
“Their total assessment of the Hydro-Quebec option was guessing at a bunch of figures because they hadn’t talked to Hydro-Quebec and hadn’t asked Hydro-Quebec to give them any assistance on it,” Merrick said.
“How can that be a balanced or reasoned assessment of that option?”
The consumer advocate, a Halifax lawyer, said he hopes Hydro-Quebec takes part in the hearing. The Crown-owned Quebec utility has said it is considering doing so because of concerns about some of Power Advisory’s analysis and conclusions.
Maine energy consultant Gordon Weil said he agrees the board should consider a wider range of options than have been talked about so far.
“We haven’t seen any proposals for … a mix of power supply, which actually makes sense.”
Some of those options could include importing electricity from New England or New Brunswick, Weil said.
Natural gas should also be part of the discussion, he said.
“I don’t think there’s a silver bullet,” said Weil, president of Standard Energy Co.
“Generally, hydro, if you don’t tear the dam down, is a permanent part of your supply, and it’s more green than natural gas and it’s not subject to market-price fluctuations.”
Weil, who wrote a report on Muskrat Falls last year for the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies, concluded the megaproject could benefit the Atlantic region but also carries risks.
The consultant has criticized the Newfoundland and Labrador government for not having an independent review of the venture, since it carries greater risk for ratepayers there.
Meanwhile, the opposition leaders here said they will be looking for an answer to a question they have long asked — how much the power will cost when it gets to people’s homes?
“Our own government is not able to answer that question,” said Progressive Conservative Leader Jamie Baillie. “No consultant that they’ve hired has been able to answer that question.
“The sad fact is if we do hear it (Friday), it’ll be the word of Emera, which Nova Scotians will judge on its merits.”
Liberal Leader Stephen McNeil said he hopes there will be a clear picture of who would benefit from the project.
“I think when we get a true cost of it, we’ll kind of get a sense of whether or not this is actually good for the ratepayers, or whether it’s only good for the shareholders of Emera.”
With David Jackson, provincial reporter