Federal Minister Calls Utility’s Pause on Atlantic Energy Corridor ‘Bump in the Road’

Federal Minister Calls Utility’s Pause on Atlantic Energy Corridor ‘Bump in the Road’
The construction site of the hydroelectric facility at Muskrat Falls, N.L. is seen on July 14, 2015. (The Canadian Press/Andrew Vaughan)
The Canadian Press

The federal minister of natural resources says Nova Scotia Power’s decision to “pause” its participation in a proposed megaproject aimed at ending reliance on coal is just a temporary setback.

Jonathan Wilkinson says the utility’s move is a challenge to a concept dubbed the Atlantic Loop, which envisions a $5-billion project allowing the region to gain more access to Labrador and Quebec hydroelectricity.

However, Wilkinson said in an interview late Monday the federal government is still actively pursuing the energy corridor and believes the Emera subsidiary’s position is a “bump in the road” that he’s hoping can be overcome.

Emera said last week it was putting participation in the project on hold after the provincial Progressive Conservative government introduced legislation capping power rate hikes at 1.8 percent over the next two years for non-fuel costs.

Wilkinson says he remains focused on the project and believes there aren’t many other options for the Nova Scotia government to pursue if they want to remain in compliance with both federal and provincial legislation setting out carbon emission goals.

The minister’s mandate letter from the prime minister calls on him to support efforts to achieve a net-zero electricity system by 2035, and to consult with the provinces to remove carbon from the systems.

In a statement sent to The Canadian Press last week, Emera said it has “paused work on the Atlantic Loop project” while it assesses the full impact of the Nova Scotia legislation.

It also says this “is just one example of the investments Nova Scotia Power will be forced to reassess,” saying that the law could mean investments in other clean energy projects worth about $500 million could be shelved.

The company hasn’t revealed details of what specific projects it would stop working on if the proposed amendments to the provincial Public Utilities Act proceed.