John Merrick

John Merrick, Nova Scotia's consumer advocate, says this deal is worse for ratepayers than the original offer. (CBC)

Nova Scotia's consumer advocate says the latest agreement to import additional electricity from Muskrat Falls in Labrador isn't good enough to make citizens pay for the Maritime Link.

The subsea cable is expected to cost $1.5 billion and the regulator has asked the power companies, Nalcor Energy of Newfoundland and Labrador and Emera of Nova Scotia, to guarantee enough electricity to prove it is the least expensive option.

But John Merrick says the latest proposal hasn’t reached the mark.

“We’ve looked at the compliance agreement, and we’re satisfied it doesn’t not provide us with sufficient access to market-priced energy to satisfy the conditions the board imposed,” he said. “As you will recall, there was an initial block of energy to be sold to Nova Scotia Power – it was called the Nova Scotia block – at very high prices.”

Nalcor and Emera have guaranteed surplus power to offset the cost of the Maritime Link. That’s the equivalent of 12 per cent of what Nova Scotia uses today, that’s on top of the 10 per cent already under contract.

A citizens group called the Lower Ratepayers Alliance says the agreement also raises questions about whether coal plants will be able to shut down if Newfoundland can’t provide the surplus energy.

The consulting firm, Morrison Park Associates, hired by the Utility and Review Board said providing a fixed amount of energy in writing does offer consumers additional protection.

But Merrick disagrees. He said the latest agreement includes conditions and a change to the definition of market price which makes the second offer worse than the first.

 “It’s a wonderful project if it’s done right,” he said. “When they’re asking ratepayers to pay some of the cost of the project itself, that’s when we run into difficulties.”

The next hearing on the project begins in November 14.