Projected costs for the Newfoundland and Labrador portion of the Muskrat Falls hydro project have risen to just under $7 billion, meaning higher electricity bills for ratepayers.

But first power is still expected to flow as scheduled in 2017.

"We're well within a comfortable envelope of where we expected to be,” Nalcor Energy CEO Ed Martin told reporters in St. John’s Thursday.

This new $6.99-billion price tag is the second upwards shift since the megaproject was announced in late 2010.

'We're well within a comfortable envelope of where we expected to be.'- Nalcor Energy CEO Ed Martin

The share of expenses for Muskrat Falls that Newfoundland and Labrador ratepayers were initially expected to bear was $5 billion.

Less than two years later, in October 2012, Nalcor announced that number had risen to $6.2 billion — a jump of 24 per cent.

Now, less than two years after that, the cost estimate has climbed another $800 million.

The new figure just shy of $7 billion doesn’t include the $1.5-billion cost of the Maritime Link that will carry Muskrat power from Newfoundland to Nova Scotia. Emera will pay for that.

According to Martin, 90 per cent of Nalcor’s Muskrat Falls contracts are essentially complete.

He says those prices are fixed, helping provide some cost certainty.

"I believe that we have narrowed down the risk of additional cost increases very, very, very significantly,” Martin noted.

“Can I say that there could never be another cost driver? Well, I can't say that. But I think what we're focused on now — I don't think, I know — it's the execution of the project."

Power bills to jump $8 a month

Nalcor says the latest jump in construction costs will add $8 a month to the average electricity bill in the province when Muskrat comes on stream in 2017.

"The question I'm sure is on the minds of most Newfoundlanders and Labradorians is what will be the net change in my electricity bill,” Martin said.

hi-muskrat-falls-river-2012

When the Muskrat Falls Project was sanctioned in December 2012, the estimated capital cost of the development was $6.2 billion. That number has grown to almost $7 billion. (CBC)

“We expect that change to be in the range of about seven per cent to the average homeowner on the island that's using electric heat."

The original Muskrat Falls monthly power increases were estimated at $38 per average user from 2016 through 2030. The new projection is $46 per month.

Premier Tom Marshall said the increases in Muskrat costs compare favourably when stacked up against other megaprojects in the province.

“I look at some of the other projects,” Marshall said. “I’m very comfortable. I look at what’s happening with Vale and their project, and with Hebron.”