Premiers, power officials to make announcement today

FREDERICTON — Improvements to interprovincial power transmission infrastructure in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick would be a boon to planned and proposed renewable projects, says the head of a regional think-tank.

Nova Scotia Power CEO Chris Huskilson will join New Brunswick Premier Shawn Graham and NB Power representatives in Fredericton today for an announcement on regional energy co-operation.

“I think we’re going to hear them talk again about increasing the transmission capacity between the two provinces because they’ve talked about that for years,” Charles Cirtwill, president and CEO of the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies in Halifax, said Monday.

He said another $200-million, 345-kilovolt power transmission line between the provinces, which Nova Scotia Power revealed recently it is considering, would allow more clean power to flow on the grid.

Cirtwill said he also believes development of the Lower Churchill in Labrador “will at least be mentioned” during the news conference, which he expects Nova Scotia Premier Darrell Dexter will also attend.

“If you invest in transmission infrastructure, it makes all of these small five-, 10-megawatt projects, a little wind farm here, a little dam there, much more viable because they have a low-cost way to get their electricity to market,” he said.

Hydro-Quebec also has another 6,000 megawatts of power planned for the coming years that could be pushed into Atlantic Canada.

The New Brunswick System Operator, in a report this month on a 10-year outlook for generation and transmission, says there is a need for new transmission infrastructure across the province, particularly in the Moncton area.

Operator CEO Sylvain Gignac confirmed in an interview his organization has been supplying Nova Scotia Power with information but has not received a formal request to study a new transmission line between the two provinces.

“Obviously, as you can see from the 10-year outlook, there are some reliability issues in that area close to Moncton and it can be alleviated with increasing the capacity at the inter-tie with Nova Scotia Power,” Gignac said.

The big question will be who pays for transmission infrastructure that both governments and utilities have long agreed needs to be built.

Cirtwill suggests a public-private partnership for transmission makes sense: The federal government could pay some of it, the provinces could pay part of it to be recovered through electricity bills, and private investors can throw in money to be paid back by reselling a portion of the electricity in the U.S. marketplace.

In December 2008, the Atlantic premiers met in Summerside, P.E.I., to discuss the need for increased and accelerated infrastructure funding. They said they were encouraging Ottawa to make a major investment in electricity transmission infrastructure in Atlantic Canada.