A Clean Power Superhighway Down East: Canada's Atlantic Growth Strategy's Clean Energy Program

8 minute read
17 July 2020

In July 2016, the Atlantic Growth Strategy was launched by Canada's federal government in collaboration with the Maritime Provinces. As part of the strategic priorities of this collaboration, the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change was created to grow the economy while reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Since July 2016, the federal government has invested approximately $286 million into clean tech for Atlantic Canada as part of this effort.[1] To build on this support, Ottawa recently announced a Clean Power Roadmap for Atlantic Canada in which provinces will collaborate to build a "clean power superhighway" that will meet the region's electricity needs.

Clean power roadmap (Announced March 2019)

The Clean Power Roadmap will inform how provinces invest in electricity infrastructure across Atlantic Canada in the coming decades. The federal government has committed up to $2 million to support the Roadmap's development, including any associated studies.[2] Its development will be overseen by an Atlantic Clean Power Planning Committee, with senior representatives from all jurisdictions.

The committee will[3]:

  • evaluate different clean electricity options;
  • forecast electricity demand across the region;
  • identify the most cost-effective and critical transmission projects needed to move power across the region and further integrate markets; and
  • determine the mix of electricity resources needed to meet future demand across the region.

Recent roadmap developments

i) Strengthening Transmission Capacity

During the latest meeting between Atlantic premiers in January 2020, each premier agreed on the creation of a regional grid that transmits hydroelectricity from Labrador and Quebec to the Maritimes. Building on the Muskrat Falls Project nearing completion, upgrading other parts of the eastern Canadian electric transmission grid would allow Nova Scotia and New Brunswick to further shift away from carbon-intensive energy sources towards more clean hydroelectricity.[4] Although no specific hydro solution was finalized, The Canadian Press reported that the group identified additional hydro resources from Quebec, and Newfoundland & Labrador's proposed Gull Island project.[5]

ii) Quebec Remains a Key Player – Extends Agreement with New Brunswick

Days before the latest meeting of Atlantic premiers, Hydro-Québec and New Brunswick reached an agreement that will increase the clean hydro power sold from Quebec to New Brunswick over the next two decades. The agreement will include significant new transmission lines throughout New Brunswick. To pay for these lines, the Heads of NB Power and Hydro-Québec plan to develop a proposal for federal funding by this summer.[6] Although Quebec is not a member of the Atlantic Growth Strategy, the province remains a major seller of electricity in the region.

iii) The Highly Anticipated Muskrat Falls

Completing Newfoundland and Labrador's Muskrat Falls electricity generation complex will make the province's electricity generation 98% renewable. Energy from the project will also flow to Nova Scotia under a 35 year power supply arrangement, and Nalcor Energy plans to sell additional excess energy to Nova Scotia and other Atlantic provinces. Despite a completion date set for early 2020, COVID-19 led to a recent announcement by Nalcor Energy officials that the megaproject may take up to another year and approximately $400 million more to finish.[7] Nalcor and Emera Inc. have built over 1,600 km of transmission lines across the provinces to carry Muskrat Falls clean energy, including Emera's "Maritime Link" which will send power to Nova Scotia through undersea cables crossing the Cabot Strait.[8] The next phase of Newfoundland's overarching Lower Churchill Project involves the construction of Gull Island, which is estimated to be three-times as large as Muskrat Falls, though nothing official about Gull Island's timing or financing has been announced.[9]

More information

Gowling WLG's renewable energy practice team works closely with governments, regulators, project developers, financial institutions and investors, and the sector supply chain among others. For further insight on Canada's fast-changing renewable energy industries, please contact a member of our team.

Thomas J. Timmins is a partner at Gowling WLG's Toronto office and Leader of the firm's Energy Industry Sector Group.

David Torchetti is an associate at Gowling WLG's Toronto office.

Matthew Brooker is a summer student at Gowling WLG's Toronto office.

[1] Atlantic Region Summary for Policy Makers (2018), online: Regional Electricity Cooperation and Strategic Infrastructure

[3] Ibid.

[4] NB and NS have a lower capacity for clean electric energy supply and rely more heavily on combustion and conventional steam. Supra note 1 at p. 7

[5] Holly McKenzie-Sutter, Quebec, Atlantic premiers discuss hydro as clean energy solution for region (January 2020), online: first reported by The Canadian Press

[7] Holly McKenzie-Sutter, Financial update from N.L energy corporation reflects impact of coronavirus pandemic (June 2020), online: The Canadian Press

[8] Supra note 5.

[9] Evan Careen, Labrador-based groups preparing to fight Gull Island (June 2020), online: The Telegram

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