FREDERICTON – The New Brunswick government is facing more questions about its control over the province’s transmission grid under the revised deal to sell some of NB Power’s assets to Hydro-Québec.
And some of those questions are coming from a familiar source who initially seemed content with the reworked agreement – Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Danny Williams.
Williams said in an interview with The Globe and Mail newspaper he remains concerned that Hydro-Québec would still have a “stranglehold” on Eastern Canadian energy exports under the new deal.
But Energy Minister Jack Keir said Friday it shouldn’t surprise anyone that Hydro-Québec will get transmission rights along with its purchase of the province’s hydroelectric generating facilities and the Point Lepreau nuclear power plant.
“You’re not going to buy a toaster without a plug,” an exasperated Keir told reporters.
“Why would you buy a generating station if you can’t get the electricity on the grid?”
Keir said Williams has known for a long time that there’s no room left on New Brunswick’s export grid.
“We’d love to have Danny Williams come through New Brunswick, but someone is going to have to build transmission lines in order for him to do that,” he said.
“He knows that and the private sector in New Brunswick knows that”
Fort Reliance, the parent company of Irving Oil Ltd., announced earlier this week the creation of a new venture, Portage Energy Ltd. The new company has plans to attract and spend up to $2 billion on improving transmission infrastructure with public-and-private-sector partners.
The revised NB Power deal released Wednesday includes 670 megawatts of transmission rights for Hydro-Québec into the U.S., in addition to the 300 megawatts of transmission capacity it gained on a new line that opened in 2007.
That gives Hydro-Québec the rights to 970 megawatts of transmission. The total capacity between New Brunswick and Maine is only slightly more than 1,000 megawatts.
Under questioning in the legislature, Keir and Premier Shawn Graham insisted the province would not give up control over transmission.
“The independent system operator will maintain that control and access to our markets,” Graham said.
Gordon Weil, a Maine-based energy analyst who reviewed the original deal for the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies, said Hydro-Québec will have permanent access to almost all of the transmission capacity on the existing grid.
“That, effectively, is the same thing as owning the line,” he said in an interview.
Williams said the revised deal is an improvement, but could still hurt any Atlantic province that wants to export green power to New England.
– with files from The Canadian Press