Wind isn’t enough – nor is Hydro Québec

Larry Hughes
17 August 2022

Scott Balfour, CEO of Emera is right, Prime Minister Trudeau’s plans to spend a quarter of a billion dollars on wind and storage will not get Nova Scotia off coal (Emera CEO says wind isn’t enough, 11 August 2022).

Instead, Mr. Balfour is relying on the Atlantic Loop.

The Atlantic Loop is shaped like the letter ‘U’. 

The western side is to bring electricity from Hydro Québec either overland through New Brunswick to the region or by subsea cable to New Brunswick or Nova Scotia.  The Loop’s eastern side is to supply electricity from the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric station in Labrador via the island of Newfoundland to Nova Scotia and beyond.

Most of the discussion about the Atlantic Loop focusses on how the western side of the Loop is needed for Nova Scotia Power to stop using coal and to supply 80 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030 target.

The eastern side is seldom discussed.

This is a mistake.

The eastern side of the Atlantic Loop is needed by Nova Scotia Power to increase the current volume of renewable electricity it supplies to its customers from 30 to 40 percent.

The 40 percent target runs from 2020 to 2029.

The additional volume of electricity is to be supplied from the eastern side of the Atlantic Loop.  Muskrat Falls will provide about 900 GWh a year in the Nova Scotia Block for 35 years and 240 GWh a year in the Supplemental Energy Block for five years.

The electricity was to have started flowing in 2020.

However, because of delays in the construction of Muskrat Falls, the NSUARB gave Nova Scotia Power until the end of 2022 to ensure that 40% of all the electricity it supplies between 2020 and 2022 (three years) comes from renewable sources. 

This is the Alternative Compliance Plan

From 2020 until the end of the second quarter of 2022, Nova Scotia Power furnished 8,154 GWh of renewable electricity to its customers.  This included some from Muskrat Falls.

To meet the Alternative Compliance Plan’s requirements by the end of 2022, Nova Scotia Power will need to supply an estimated 4,100 GWh of renewable electricity to its customers over the next six months.

This is about half as much as was provided in the previous two-and-a-half years.

Some of this will come from Nova Scotia Power’s existing renewable sources.  Between 2017 and 2021, Nova Scotia Power averaged about 1,350 GWh of renewable electricity in the final six months of the year.

Nova Scotia Power will still need another 2,700 GWh.

A logical source would be Muskrat Falls.  It was commissioned last November and is now producing electricity.

However, faults in the software designed to manage the flow of electricity over the Labrador-Island Link between Muskrat Falls and the island of Newfoundland means the Labrador-Island Link is not operating at full capacity.

Consequently, Muskrat Falls is unable to supply the volume of renewable electricity required by the Alternative Compliance Plan.

Emera’s Q2 Management’s Discussion & Analysis (MD&A) report released last week downplayed the problems with the eastern side of the Atlantic Loop, simply stating that, “Nalcor is working towards final commissioning of the LIL [Labrador-Island Link] in 2022”. 

Nalcor is undoubtedly working on it, but a consultant’s report has found that the Labrador-Island Link will not be functioning at its intended capacity until well into 2023 at the earliest due to problems with the software managing the system.

The MD&A notes that Nova Scotia Power has the option of purchasing additional market-priced energy from Nalcor starting in September.

This, and possibly other sources of renewable energy, will be needed to meet the Alternative Compliance Plan by the end of the year.

The alternative, as the MD&A points out, would see Nova Scotia Power (not its ratepayers) subject to a maximum penalty of $10 million, if it was found not to have acted in a duly diligent manner.

Achieving Nova Scotia’s 2030 target of getting the province off coal and supplying its customers with 80 percent of their electricity from renewable sources will take more that the prime minister’s plan for wind and storage in the province.

It will also take more than the western side of the Atlantic Loop giving access to electricity from Hydro Québec.

It all hinges on those responsible for the eastern side of the Atlantic Loop supplying the volume of electricity that was promised in 2020.