Transmission: Nova Scotia Premier Darrell Dexter says no to the idea of running a subsea power cable to New England after report reveals it would cost up to $3 billion

HALIFAX – A new report says it would cost up to $3 billion to lay an undersea power cable between Nova Scotia and New England, a hefty price that appears to sink an idea floated by Nova Scotia’s premier to bypass New Brunswick.

Darrell Dexter raised the idea of running a subsea cable to New England in response to the proposed sale of NB Power to Hydro-Qu├ębec.

He said concerns over access to U.S. energy markets had led Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador to consider ways of shipping electricity that would bypass New Brunswick.

Both Dexter and Newfoundland and Labrador’s Danny Williams are worried the proposed sale could prevent them from shipping hydro and tidal electricity through New Brunswick.

“If there becomes a problem at the New Brunswick border, you have to look at the alternatives,” Dexter said in December. “You’re not going to rule out anything.”

But on Thursday Dexter did just that, saying his province would not shell out the $2 billion to $3 billion needed to string a cable from his province to New England.

“We’re not going to build it, no,” he told reporters.

Dexter did, however, say there are private proponents studying the idea.

“We’ll see over the next while whether any of them believe that the economics of this will work for them,” he told reporters.

Late Wednesday, Dexter’s government released a report that outlines options for upgrading and expanding the province’s transmission system.

Authored by Canadian engineering firm SNC-Lavalin, the report estimates that a direct submarine cable from southern Nova Scotia to New England would cost between $2 billion to $3 billion.

“This initiative would require a multi-billion dollar investment, and would need a high level of cooperation between the Nova Scotia government and stakeholders, New England stakeholders, and private developers to develop wind, tidal, and other generation facilities required to offset the high costs associated with this project,” states the report.

The question now is whether anyone will actually take on the expensive project.

Charles Cirtwill, of the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies, says the answer is simple.

“I don’t think their return on investment is going to come fast enough to justify private investment of that scale. And the governments certainly don’t have the money,” said Cirtwill, president of the Halifax-based think-tank.

“From the perspective of energy producers in the region, absolutely, this would be nice. But are they ready to cough up the $2-3 billion needed to build it? Probably not. They’re hoping somebody else is going to do that.”

The SNC-Lavalin report, which was developed before the NB Power sale was announced, also states that a transmission link from Newfoundland to Nova Scotia would cost from $800 million to $1.2 billion.

Nova Scotia’s energy minister, Bill Estabrooks, says he’s hopeful the sale of NB Power won’t force his province to consider new, expensive power lines.

“There are still some regional solutions that can take place,” he said Thursday. “We’ve got to continue to work together.”