The Atlantic premiers are pressing the federal government for a financial commitment to help the region after Ottawa said there will be no extensions for New Brunswick coal-burning power plants past 2030.
The letter to federal officials asks for $5 billion in compensation for the transition off coal and to help facilitate the Atlantic Loop.
“This effort requires the federal government’s willingness to provide financial support to ensure our citizens have access to clean and affordable energy and are not burdened by higher energy rates and increased energy poverty,” the letter says.
New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs has said the compensation is needed to ensure the phase-out doesn’t hurt New Brunswickers who could face power rate increases of 20 or 30 per cent.
Environment and Climate Change Minister Steven Guilbeault said through a spokesperson that Ottawa won’t signan “equivalency agreement” the Higgs government was seeking to let Belledune operate to its life expectancy of 2040.
“I can confirm that the Government of Canada is committed to phasing-out coal-fired power by 2030 across the country, including in New Brunswick,” the statement says. “The Minister will not sign an equivalency agreement that extends past 2030.”
The Atlantic Loop is seen as one of the best hopes for the region’s energy supply. Floated in the Liberal Party’s 2019 platform, the Atlantic Loop would tie Atlantic Canada’s power grids together to enable hydropower to flow from Quebec and Labrador into the Maritimes to offset coal-fired power plants.
But funding for the project, estimated at more than $5 billion, has been unclear, and the project can not be completed to meet the 2030 timeframe.
Nova Scotia Premier Tim Houston met recently with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau but left with no commitment for the funding. Houston said that while there was no financial commitment, he believes Trudeau understands what is needed.
“The prime minister and his team know that it’s expensive but Nova Scotians and Atlantic Canada in general will bear a disproportionate amount of the overall cost for this country to get off coal,” Houston told the media.