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Low-impact route gives leg up to Emera's bid in Mass. renewables RFP

Emera Inc.'s proposed Atlantic Link power-transmission project has an edge on competitors in a call for delivered renewables by Massachusetts because the subsea 1,000-MW conduit would avoid right-of-way and environmental issues associated with terrestrial lines.

The Nova Scotia-based company's bid in the July request for proposals offers about 2 TWh of hydroelectricity and 3.6 TWh of wind power that could be delivered to the state, CEO Chris Huskilson said on a conference call. Emera expects to start detailed development plans for Atlantic Link once Massachusetts selects the winning bids early in 2018.

Atlantic Link is a high-voltage, direct-current network that would work in conjunction with Emera's Maritime Link system. Maritime Link, which is nearing completion with about C$1.4 billion of its C$1.6 billion budget spent and an anticipated January 2018 start date, is designed to gather electricity from Newfoundland and Labrador's large Muskrat Falls hydroproject for distribution to Canada's Atlantic provinces and provide an export outlet to New England states through existing infrastructure. Atlantic Link would go undersea at Coleson Cove at the southern tip of New Brunswick and surface near the Pilgrim nuclear plant in Plymouth, Mass.

"The project is reasonably low-impact relative to some of the other terrestrial projects that are being built and, as you can imagine, this, for us, would be a follow-on from the work that we've done with Maritime Link," Huskilson said on the Aug. 11 call. "If you look at the way the Canadian side has looked at that project, it was deemed by the CFO [Canada Fisheries and Oceans] to have very, very low impact on the environment."

The large hydro component in Emera's bid also offers reliability advantages in the renewables call because it does not have weather-dependent variables in production. Atlantic Link would be about 65% utilized by the Massachusetts proposal, allowing producers in Maine and Canada access to other markets in the U.S. Northeast.

"This line actually has a lot of scope when it comes to being able to access various sources of energy and creates a lot of flexibility," Huskilson said. "At the end of the day, the state is going to have to decide whether or not it wants that additional flexibility because there are projects that have been proposed that are pretty straightforward, coming from one source with one line."

Separately on Aug. 10 Emera reported second-quarter adjusted net income of C$117 million, or 55 Canadian cents per share, compared with C$50 million, or 34 cents per share in the same quarter in 2016. The adjustments account for gains from one-time items in the year-earlier quarter, including the sale of Algonquin Power & Utilities Corp. shares that made up C$146 million of the increase.