Nova Scotia finally gets Muskrat Falls electricity

·2 min read

Electricity from the Muskrat Falls hydro project in Labrador is finally flowing into Nova Scotia.

It's good news for Nova Scotia Power customers who have been paying — and waiting — for clean electricity to arrive from the energy megaproject since 2018.

"We started to receive power from Muskrat Falls in late December," Jacqueline Foster, a spokesperson for Nova Scotia Power, said in an email.

"This is an important step toward the commencement of the N.S. block of energy which we expect to take place later this year."

Surplus power to N.S.

One of four generating units at the big hydro dam in Labrador has been producing electricity continuously since mid-December, according to documents filed with Newfoundland and Labrador regulators earlier this month.

St. John's, N.L.-based Nalcor, which owns Muskrat Falls, said electricity deemed surplus in Newfoundland is being sent across the Cabot Strait into Nova Scotia via the Maritime Link.

Up to 83 megawatts — representing 3.46 per cent of Nova Scotia Power capacity — is moving through the 170-kilometre subsea cable between the two provinces.

"Nalcor continues to export power over the Maritime Link to markets," said Nalcor spokesperson Karen O'Neill in a statement. "The amount of exported energy varies on a daily basis."

Nic Meloney/CBC
Nic Meloney/CBC

O'Neill would not say which province is buying the electricity — only that it is being sold in the Maritimes.

Foster, however, confirmed that Nova Scotia Power is getting the electricity, but she would not say how much.

"The volume of energy we purchase under contract is considered commercially sensitive and confidential," she said.

Ratepayers waiting 3 years to see benefit

Nova Scotia Power ratepayers have been paying for the $1.57-billion Maritime Link since 2018, even without receiving a single electron from Muskrat Falls until a few weeks ago.

They paid $109 million in 2018, $115 million in 2019, and $144 million in 2020.

Customers will shell out $172 million this year for the Link, which is owned by Nova Scotia Power parent company, Emera.

The cost has already been factored into rates.

The 35-year "20 for 20" deal guarantees Nova Scotia at least 20 per cent of the electricity from Muskrat Falls in return for paying 20 per cent of the cost in the form of the Maritime Link.

Emera's share of the overall cost is now considerably less than 20 per cent. It completed the Maritime Link on budget while Muskrat Falls costs have exploded by billions of dollars. An original budget of $2.9 billion now tops $10 billion.

Green energy

In a province still dependent on burning coal to generate electricity, Muskrat Falls plays a key role in Nova Scotia's lower carbon future.

The green energy from Labrador is part of Nova Scotia Power's plan to meet renewable energy targets and wean the province from coal, which currently provides 60 per cent of electricity.

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