Submarine cable report request adjourns hearing on Mainland Link’s $ 1.7 billion claim

Testimony this week at a Nova Scotia Public Services and Review Board hearing consistently pointed to a time lag between Emera’s demand to recoup the full $ 1.7 billion cost of the bond. shipping from taxpayers and the paltry amount of electricity that was delivered through the link.

Vincent Musco of Bates White Economic Consulting on Wednesday spoke of a “mismatch” in what was originally agreed to and the 19% of the contracted electricity for the Nova Scotia block that has so far been delivered by the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project in Labrador.

“What we’ve been hearing over the last few days is that the plan expects undelivered goods and services related to the Nova Scotia block through the end of October and beyond… be tracked, banked and the plan is to recover those products. and services at a later date, at a similar value, ”said Musco, who is part of the board’s consultant panel.

This similar value, according to consumer advocate Bill Mahody, the lawyer who represents Nova Scotia’s 400,000 residential taxpayers, means that the electricity delivered at different times of the year has different values.

“Basically, an hour of energy in February is worth a lot more to our system than an hour of energy in June,” Mahody said.

“If we had an undelivered piece of power that happened in February, Nova Scotia Power will have to follow closely. … One way to do this might be to provide more power in June than you lost in February in order to match the value. This is the importance of the energy supplied at certain times.

The Nova Scotia Power Station at Tufts Cove in Dartmouth. – Tim Krochak

Any decision on this will soon be in the hands of the Public Utilities and Review Board to determine, Mahody said, but a potential outcome would be that the audit of the fuel adjustment mechanism be used as a check for itself. ensure that the undelivered energy is received, it is of equal value to the lost energy.

Earlier in the week, Mahody asked David Landrigan, Emera’s vice president for Newfoundland and Labrador, about the cost to Nova Scotia taxpayers of replacing the energy that the Maritime Link project did not provide from January 2018, when electricity was initially expected to flow through the submarine cable to Nova Scotia, until now.

The answer to this question must be provided by December 20.

Although electricity had finally started to flow through the submarine link under the Cabot Strait from the ailing Muskrat Falls hydroelectric plant in Labrador by August 15, 2021, Nova Scotia received only 54,757 megawatts of energy from August 15 to November 15. block, on which the board’s approval was based in 2013, pledged 308,610 megawatt hours between August and November, Mahody said on Monday.

“Based on that, how can you say that taxpayers are getting what they bargained for,” Mahody said.

No electricity crossed the strait to Nova Scotia in October.

On Tuesday, Utilities Board Chairman Peter Gurnham spoke directly to Rick Janega, CEO of Nova Scotia Power Maritime Link (NSPML), another Emera subsidiary, asking if the board had been misled into taking the ‘hearing, given that the company had provided Nova Scotia with only 19 percent of the electricity promised but still requested to Nova Scotia to recover 100 percent of the $ 1.7 billion cost to build, maintain and operate the link.

“There has been no effort to mislead the board of directors, we signed the acceleration agreement in good faith that we are acting in the best interests of clients,” Janega said.

“We did not in any way intend or form to intend or mislead anyone in this hearing process with this request.”

In August, NSPML signed an acceleration agreement with its Newfoundland partner, Nalcor, to bring long-delayed electricity to Nova Scotia and demand from the utility and review board quickly followed. the first flow of electricity through the strait.

Nova Scotia taxpayers have already paid $ 450 million for the linkage project, which was completed on time and on budget, and NSPML is requesting a payment of $ 169 million from NSP clients in 2022, a amount already included in electricity tariffs.

NSPML did not wait for full commissioning of the Muskrat Falls project to finally begin delivery of power to Nova Scotia and Labrador Island Link experienced persistent software issues that delayed delivery.

Janega has said fixes for software issues are imminent, but a report says the end of March 2022 is a reasonable date for testing operations to be concluded.

On Monday, Mahody referred to a statement submitted by Laurence Trim, technical director of Cable Consulting International, which questioned the thermal resistivity of the link, the resistivity of the seabed and the temperature of the seabed.

“Mr. Trim states that there is no evidence of an expected 50-year life, cable components are more likely to have a 40-year life, and fiber optic cable is likely to fail. ‘have a lifespan of 25 years,’ said Mahody.

Trim was due to testify before the end of the week, but the board agreed to a request by the NSPML to instead provide additional information to Trim so that he could file a cable integrity report by here. December 23.

“There should be consequences for not having done and followed the normal course of providing the evidence that the claimant clearly needed now to be on file,” Mahody argued at the hearing into the claim.

“The most important part for taxpayers is that this council actually has the information it needs to make the decisions it needs to make. “

Council agreed and the hearing was adjourned on Wednesday.

If Trim is required to testify about his supplementary report, that will happen in early January.

Written comments and final responses are expected by Jan. 7 and Jan. 14, respectively, and the board is due to render its decision by the end of February.

Harry D. Gonzalez