Nova Scotia

Premier confident in Muskrat Falls hydro project despite Nalcor CEO's concerns

Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil says he's confident the Muskrat Falls energy project will be completed despite concerns expressed by the new CEO of Newfoundland and Labrador's energy corporation.

Nalcor's Stan Marshall says Maritime Link 'looks to be very much in the benefit of Nova Scotia'

The Muskrat Falls hydro project is slated to send first energy in 2018. (CBC)

Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil says he's confident the Muskrat Falls energy project will be completed despite comments from the incoming CEO of Newfoundland and Labrador's energy corporation, who says he is "deeply troubled" by the delays and cost overruns.

Stan Marshall, who was introduced as the new CEO of Nalcor Energy on Thursday, criticized the energy corporation's contract with Emera Inc. on the Maritime Link — a plan to construct an energy transmission line to Nova Scotia.

Marshall said the contract "looks to be very much in the benefit of Nova Scotia."

'Confident' project will be finished

McNeil said he had scheduled Friday afternoon call with Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Dwight Ball about the Muskrat Falls project. Ball's government is still committed to the project, McNeil said, but he wants to know when energy will start to be transmitted. 

"We just want to make sure where that is, and looking for an update from them on what that will mean in terms of when the energy will actually start flowing," McNeil told reporters on Friday. 

"We're confident that project will be finished. It's just a question of what the timeline will be," he said.

Marshall installed after mass resignation

Meanwhile, Emera said it has had a "positive working relationship" with its partners on the Maritime Link project.

"We fully expect that to continue," a spokesperson said in an email. "We look forward to working with Mr. Stan Marshall as he assumes his new role as CEO of Nalcor." 

Marshall, who is the former head of energy company Fortis, Inc., became the CEO of Nalcor following the resignation of the entire board earlier in the week. The provincial government criticized the board for cost overruns and delays with the Muskrat Falls hydroelectricity project.

The Muskrat Falls project in Labrador is designed to supply energy to 220,000 homes. It will ship electricity to Nova Scotia through a subsea cable from Newfoundland. Emera has committed to 20 per cent of the project by building the subsea Maritime Link, at a cost of more than $1.5 billion. 

Date pushed back to 2018

An Emera spokesperson said the link is still on budget and will be completed late next year. 

Ratepayers in Nova Scotia are not responsible for cost overruns in Newfoundland and Labrador. But if energy is not flowing from Muskrat Falls by the target date, Emera will have to find it elsewhere. The company has said it's prepared to do that, and says that wouldn't have any effect on ratepayers.

Last fall, the original date for first power from Muskrat Falls was pushed back from 2017 to 2018. 

Concern about timeline

The Nalcor project is at least 10 per cent over budget, but McNeil said he did not think the project would end up costing Nova Scotians more. 

"The energy is going through the rate that has been committed to through the Utility and Review Board," he said.

"If they're looking for more money from Emera, that would be up to Emera shareholders, not the ratepayers of Nova Scotia."

Up to 10 per cent of energy supply

Federal and provincial laws require Nova Scotia to cut greenhouse gas emissions and the use of coal for power. By 2025, 40 per cent of the province's electricity must come from renewable sources.

Muskrat Falls is expected to supply up to 10 per cent of Nova Scotia's energy through renewable hydroelectricity. 

"We have contracts in place, so we expect that those contracts are going to be honoured," said Energy Minister Michel Samson.

"We have expressed concern over any delays with the project because of the fact that our electricity plan relied upon having this electricity coming from Newfoundland and Labrador. So any delays in doing that is cause for concern with us."

With files from Jean LaRoche