From Province House to Home by Leo Glavine
Over the past number of months and years, the hydro-power project Muskrat Falls, located in Newfoundland and Labrador, has received much attention in our province. We all know that Nova Scotia Power’s parent company, Emera, is going to pay for the cost of the Maritime Link through our power rates. The estimated cost has by $300 million in just a matter of months. During the last decade, hydro projects around the world have had cost overrruns of 30-50 per cent.
Nova Scotians are being asked to foot the bill for the Maritime Link without knowing what the electricity rate will be when it arrives at our door. The premier says the calculations are straight-forward and will be revealed when the UARB Board hold hearings in 2013. I place these facts in the same category as information we received as taxpayers about dollars that were invested in Bowater, Scanwood and Daewoo.
In my view of the world, I think what is really wrong with this project is that the NDP and NSP are promoting this one single, costly project. My wondering out loud says that part of the Maritime Link Project might wind up on the balance sheet of Nova Scotia Power and earn a return on equity of more than nine per cent. There are real alternatives to this one single, costly project, and I will outline them in a future article. This is critical because the real failure of this deal is that Emera/NSP will give up ownership of the Maritime Link after 35 years. This fact does not bother the premier, who has been the chief apologist, unwavering supporter and prepared to fund an untendered consultant to confirm his position. This endorsement will be fuel for the UARB Board rather than do real work and discover that there are cheaper alternatives to electricity security and stable rates.
The premier told the Halifax Chamber of Commerce last week that this study will show what we have known all along, that this project will provide the fairest rates for Nova Scotia. Now that we officially have the highest power rates in the country, what does fair really mean? This is an untendered study that has been going on for a couple of months, that as late as last Wednesday, the premier refused to identify the consultant. We did find out from his office that it is US consultant John Dalton and his company, Power Advisory LLC. Dalton is reviewing the cost of alternatives to the Muskrat Falls and preparing evidence for the UARB hearing.
This is where I smell an NDP muskrat at work. Dalton became the province’s renewable energy administrator last year and he oversaw the controversial wind projects earlier this year. The contracts went to projects that Nova Scotia had some degree of an ownership position, so you and I know where Mr. Dalton is going with his sole-sourced contract to determine which alternative source is best. Premier Dexter, the chief supporter of all things Nova Scotia Power is on track to provide Emera with the answer they want.
So just when you thought you received a Christmas gift from the NDP/NSP coalition of just a three per cent rate increase this January and again next year to get by the election period, we get the rest of the story. The NDP Muskrat smell will permeate your power bill with about a three per cent compounded increase for the next 35 years - just for Muskrat Falls power. Add in the Fuel Adjustment Merchanism, salaries, repair of decaying infrastructure and pensions and our power rate will continue to be the highest in the country. With a number of companies reviewing their future in our province because of the high power rates, a shocking reality is that there will be less jobs available for my grandchildren. That is why I am motivated to be part of a government that stands up to Nova Scotia Power.