Originally appeared in The Chronicle Herald.

Emera Inc. has signalled it wants to be a major utility player in the United States, a Maine-based energy expert says.

Gordon Weil said the Halifax company’s plan to acquire Florida’s TECO Energy could lead to further expansion south of the border.

“It’s a good opportunity if Emera, as it seems to be, wants to be a more significant player in North America. That’s a very good move,” Weil said in an interview from New Hampshire.

Weil, a senior fellow on electricity policy for the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies in Halifax, said the TECO deal fits in with a trend toward consolidation in the U.S. utility sector. Several of those recent acquisitions have involved foreign companies, he added.

The energy expert mentioned moves by Spain’s Iberdrola and National Grid, based in the United Kingdom, as recent examples in New England and other regions.

TECO Energy, with over 1.5 million electric or gas customers in two states, is a small utility by Florida standards, Weil said. The company operates electric and gas utilities in Florida and has a gas distribution business in New Mexico.

While there was speculation that a pair of neighbouring utilities could buy the Tampa-based company, the Maine observer said it was unlikely such a move would have flown with federal regulators in the U.S.

Weil said it will take time to integrate TECO’s operations into Emera’s business, but he doesn’t expect that will be difficult. Nor will the U.S. expansion have a downside for customers in Atlantic Canada, he added.

“I do think it signals other similar potential acquisitions as being possible for Emera. I don’t think we’ve heard the last of them,” Weil said.

Emera owns transmission and distribution utilities in Maine. The company also recently acquired a trio of gas-fired power plants in New England.