Nova Scotia

Public review urged for Muskrat Falls link

Nova Scotia's consumer advocate wants a public review of the Muskrat Falls power link to the province, but the premier says it's not necessary.

Nova Scotia's consumer advocate is calling for a public review of the Muskrat Falls power link to the province, but the premier says it's not necessary.

The hydroelectric project includes an underwater cable from Newfoundland to Nova Scotia, which is expected to cost more than $1.2 billion. Construction is expected to begin in 2014 and conclude in 2017.

Nova Scotia Power Ltd. is entitled to more than a nine-per-cent return on its investment, and some people worry that the high cost of building the undersea link will ultimately drive up electricity rates.

Consumer advocate John Merrick said a review is needed to determine whether it's the best deal for the province.

"This is a responsibility of government to set up a review process that is broad in scope, will take a look at all the options, will take a look at how the deal purports to be structured, will do it publicly so every ratepayer can see what's being done — and we'll do it before we get the cement drying in place," he said.

The Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board will review the application for the Muskrat Falls project once the finals deals are signed, but Merrick said that will focus only on what has been submitted.

Premier Darrell Dexter said he's satisfied with the reviews that have already been done.

"We also have to remember that when it comes to Muskrat Falls, it's more than just the power rates. It's about a long-term vision for the flow of energy in the region," Dexter said.

A study released by Nalcor, N.L.'s Crown energy corporation, concluded that the plans for Muskrat Falls on the Churchill River are better than other energy alternatives that it could have explored.

Manitoba Hydro is reviewing the proposal as part of a larger review by the Board of Commissioners of Public Utilities.

But the Opposition Liberals in N.L. say that third-party review won't determine whether the project is in the best interest of taxpayers. They have repeatedly claimed that Muskrat Falls will mean domestic electric bills will double.

Nalcor and Emera, the privately owned parent company of Nova Scotia Power, had planned to complete the final agreements on Muskrat Falls by Nov. 30, but that deadline has been extended to Jan. 31.