SAINT JOHN, N.B. — Emera Inc. is banking on hopes that Massachusetts will see its proposed submarine power cable from New Brunswick to Plymouth, Mass., as the best option to provide the state with clean electricity.
Company officials outlined details of the proposed Atlantic Link June 6 at an energy conference in Saint John, N.B.
Dan Muldoon, Emera's executive vice-president for major renewable and alternative energy, said the 600-kilometre-long transmission line would have a capacity of about 1,000 megawatts, with the majority of the power coming from wind in New Brunswick and hydro from other facilities, such as Muskrat Falls in Newfoundland and Labrador.
Massachusetts has issued a request for proposals seeking about 9.4 terawatts of clean energy by 2022 — roughly equal to all the power consumed by Nova Scotia each year — and is expected to decide in 2018 who will get the contract.
Emera's plan would cost about $2 billion for the transmission line alone, and it's asking N.B. Power to consider becoming a minor equity partner.
Gerald Weseen, Emera's vice-president of U.S. government affairs, said the addition of new wind power capacity could increase the price to up to $4 billion. He said they are proceeding with planning and studies even before a decision is made in order to be able to meet the deadlines.
"We would be into 2019 or 2020 before all the regulatory approvals are granted. The plan is to have this project in service in late 2022," he said.
Muldoon said the company has received a lot of interest from companies interested in building the large wind farms that would be needed in New Brunswick to meet the energy need. He said New Brunswick has areas that get good, steady winds and are near existing N.B. Power transmission lines.
If approved, the transmission line would enter the water near an existing electric substation at Coleson Cove, N.B., and come ashore at a proposed site near the Pilgrim nuclear generating station at Plymouth. That nuclear facility is scheduled to be retired in mid-2019.
Weseen said while competition for the Massachusetts contract is heavy, he believes their proposal is what the state is looking for.
"In the legislation that was signed by Gov. (Charlie) Baker last August, it says all things being equal, a project that combines wind and hydro wins versus a project with hydro only," Weseen said.
Many of the participants at the conference questioned whether the project would be jeopardized by President Donald Trump's announcement that the U.S. will withdraw from the Paris climate accord. But Muldoon said the commitment of the New England states to slash carbon emissions and seek clean energy supplies is very strong.
Weseen said if the project proceeds, it would have a significant impact on the regional economy for years.
"A thousand megawatts of wind, plus the transmission line, and the construction work at Coleson Cove, would deliver approximately 7,500 to 8,000 full-time equivalent jobs during the construction period between late 2018 and late 2022," Weseen said.
He said the wind farms would also have to pay transmission tariffs to N.B. Power to use existing lines to move electricity destined for export.
Muldoon said while he's hoping to win the contract with Massachusetts, a loss wouldn't necessarily kill the project.
"It's quite possible we would make a decision to advance it, but it would be on a different business case and a different timeline. We really believe it's a long-term strategic project. We think it will get built, it's just a matter of time, it just so happens that there's an immediate opportunity in front of us," he said.
Emera is currently installing two subsea cables between Newfoundland and Nova Scotia. The first cable was connected last month. The 170-kilometre cable is a key part of the $1.6-billion Maritime Link project, which will allow Newfoundland and Labrador's Crown-owned Nalcor Energy to ship electricity from the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project to Nova Scotia.