The $1.7-billion Maritime Link isn't expected to be idle while it waits for the Muskrat Falls hydro project to come online in 2020.

NSP Maritime Link, a subsidiary of Emera Inc., told regulators this week the transmission system — which will include a subsea cable between Newfoundland and Nova Scotia — will carry up to $120 million worth of electricity into and out of Newfoundland in 2018 and 2019.

The Maritime Link is expected to be ready by the end of this year, on time and on budget.

It's being built to carry electricity from Nalcor's Muskrat Falls hydro project, which is over budget and two years behind schedule.

Waiting 'doesn't make sense'

In a cost assessment filed with the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board, NSP Maritime Link estimated delaying construction of the Maritime Link until Muskrat Falls is ready would add between $398 million to $533 million in additional costs.

The company cited insurance, de-mobilizing and mobilizing, contractual commitments and financing.

Nova Scotia Power customers have a big stake in all of this since they are paying for almost all of the Maritime Link costs.

The utility, another Emera subsidiary, said delaying the Maritime Link is not in the best interests of customers.

"It doesn't make sense from a customer perspective to have those additional costs be borne by customers in order to line up [with Muskrat Falls] when this project is ready to be on time and on budget and there are many benefits," said Sasha Irving, a vice-president at Nova Scotia Power.

Regulators have already approved rates for 2018 that include $162 million in Maritime Link costs. Included in the rates is $51 million a year to Emera for its guaranteed rate of return on its capital investment in the Maritime Link. In 2019, customers will pay $164 million.

Grid loop connected

Emera said the Maritime Link will complete a regional loop that will allow electricity to flow both ways throughout the region.

"It makes a big difference for Newfoundland and for the province of Nova Scotia, that is why this was a true partnership between two provinces," said Irving.

Under the so-called 20-20 deal, over a 35-year period, Nova Scotia Power is entitled to 20 per cent of the electricity from Muskrat Falls in return for paying 20 per cent of the original costs.

Newfoundland and Labrador ratepayers, through Nalcor, are eating the cost overruns.