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No access to N.B. transmission lines could hamper P.E.I. wind power export plans

Aug 25, 2009 - Teresa Wright - Charlottetown Guardian - The Associated Press

A P.E.I. plan to export wind energy to New England may be in jeopardy now that New Brunswick says it has no room for Island power on its transmission lines.

Last year, the province announced a $1-billion plan for wind energy development that would see the Island increase its wind power production to 500 megawatts by 2013.

Under the plan, private developers would invest the capital needed to achieve the province's energy objective and most of the power would be earmarked for export to the eastern United States.

But an official with NB Power told the Charlottetown Guardian on Tuesday there's no room on its transmission lines for any energy exports from P.E.I.

"The transmission that is available right now is completely tied up," said Heather MacLean, manager of media relations for NB Power.

Over a year ago, the New Brunswick utility did tender some of its transmission capacity for use by other jurisdictions, but all of the excess was bought up by Quebec.

MacLean said if P.E.I. still wants to export wind power to New England, it will have to negotiate with NB Power or Quebec.

That could throw a monkey wrench into the province's current search for private wind energy developers who want to export, said Environment Minister Richard Brown.

"It's going to hamper our tender for wind development on P.E.I.," he said. "If the developers can't get their energy to the market, then we're not going to get many bids."

Opposition energy critic Mike Currie says Brown should have known this was going to happen long ago.

Currie has been asking questions about this issue for some time in the legislature. As a former development minister, he said he knew there was no room for the kind of transmission capacity needed to move the large amounts of power proposed by the province for export.

"The first thing that came into my mind when they first made their announcement was how are you going to get the power from western P.E.I., across the bridge and through New Brunswick," Currie said.

"It looks like there was never a deal and that (Premier Robert) Ghiz jumped out front on this and now he got caught."

Brown said the province did consult with NB Power and NS Power before the plan was put together and both utilities saw no issues at that time.

But now he, too, is being told New Brunswick currently has no room for P.E.I.'s energy on its transmission lines.

"The markets have changed. Wind production and energy production is fast moving,"

Brown explained. Brown is heading to an environment minister's meeting in Newfoundland this weekend and hopes to find a solution to the problem.

"I have to work some sort of deal out with them," he said.

He plans to try to negotiate with the Atlantic ministers on the concept of building an energy corridor for use by the whole region.

The Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency has been doing some work in this area and has drafted an option paper proposing a regional energy corporation be formed.

But even if the other Atlantic provinces don't want to sign a regional agreement, Brown said New Brunswick is legally required to grant some transmission access to P.E.I.

"Every utility has to provide open transmission for a fee, otherwise you can't get into the U.S. market," he said.

He further stated that it is up to the developers to negotiate transmission through New Brunswick if they are interested in exporting.

"The developers are telling me that they see no issue."