Nova Scotia confident in renewable energy target with or without Muskrat Falls

Nova Scotia is making plans to ensure it can meet its renewable energy targets in 2020 no matter what happens to the $9.2 billion Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project in Labrador, says the province’s energy minister.

Nova Scotia has set a goal of obtaining 40 per cent of its electricity from green sources by 2020 – with Muskrat Falls expected to provide slightly less than 10 per cent of the province’s overall needs once it’s online.

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READ MORE: Costs go up for Muskrat Falls hydro project

But a consultant’s report submitted at a Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board rate hearing warns the renewable target could be threatened if Muskrat Falls is delayed or cancelled.

Energy Minister Michel Samson said Tuesday that his department is looking at contingency plans to cover the difference in the event of major delays, while noting the renewable goal is still four years away.

“There are other options that are being looked at but we still remain committed to being able to achieve those goals in 2020,” said Samson.

He said the province is continuing to invest in technologies such as power storage and tidal power in an attempt to increase the amount of renewable energy available.

“We are constantly looking at new technologies, investing with our federal partners and looking at ways that we can have a smaller carbon footprint in our province,” he said.

Nova Scotia should make other plans

The report by Drazen Consulting Group says the province and Nova Scotia Power should prepare alternate plans should electricity not flow from the project as expected.

“NS Power has plenty of capacity, so it could easily meet customers’ load,” the report states.

“The problem would be that it may not meet the Renewable Energy Standard. NSPI and the government should start contemplating their range of responses and NSPI should inform the board and customers of the effects of backup plans.”

Drazen’s report is part of the evidence before the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board, which is examining a request by Nova Scotia Power to raise rates by 4.5 per cent over the next three years to cover fuel costs.

Catherine Abreu, energy coordinator at the Halifax-based Ecology Action Centre, also believes the province should be planning ahead.

READ MORE: Maritime Link on track to deliver power by 2017: Emera CEO

Abreu said without Muskrat Falls, meeting the renewable target would be a challenge as would building the transmission system that was meant to accommodate power generated by the project and from other green sources.

She said the time is ideal to approach Ottawa about infrastructure funding for such things as smart grid and power storage technologies.

“We know that the feds are open to investing in those things, so a part of it I think is upping the ante on that conversation between the province and the federal government,” she said.

The project, a joint venture between Newfoundland Crown corporation Nalcor and Nova Scotia Power’s parent company Emera (TSX:EMA) will carry power through the island of Newfoundland and on to Nova Scotia through subsea cables and overland transmission lines.

Emera’s portion, the $1.6 billion Maritime Link, will come in on budget and on time in late 2017, company CEO Chris Huskilson said in a conference call on Tuesday.

“As it relates to the timing of the generation … Nalcor hasn’t been clear about what they believe the timing of the project is at this point,” said Huskilson. “I think what we currently know at this point is that it is somewhat late and so we are planning around that.”

Power that was expected to flow by 2017 is now delayed until sometime in 2018 with costs currently about 10 per cent over budget from Nalcor’s end.

The government of Newfoundland and Labrador has said it expects a new schedule and cost estimates for the project by the end of this month.

‘We’re not leaving anyone behind’: Fort McMurray funeral home workers bring body to Edmonton

A Fort McMurray funeral director still gets emotional talking about his escape from the burning city.

Andrew Montgomery, funeral director for Robert Anderson Funeral Home, said staff started their evacuation plans last Sunday as a massive wildfire crept closer to the city.

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    “We could definitely see the smoke. It was quite close to the funeral home,” he said.

    By Tuesday afternoon, staff decided it was time to flee but they had to make special preparations to bring along a deceased body. A funeral for the deceased had been scheduled at the funeral home.

    “We have the vehicles required in order to make that transfer and we did. We were able to use one of our removal vehicles and simply bring the deceased down into Edmonton,” Montgomery said.

    “There was one body and we had some cremated remains that we had had at the funeral home.”

    READ MORE: Fort McMurray fire: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to visit city on Friday

    He said there wasn’t much time to really process what was happening.

    “You just rely on your instincts and get things done. The cremated remains are safe and some pertinent paperwork as well.”

    Montgomery choked up talking about why staff left Fort McMurray with the remains.

    “We’re certainly used to taking care of people’s loved ones and this was no different,” he said.

    “It’s still somebody’s mom, somebody’s dad. We’re not leaving anyone behind. That’s not something you can replace.”

    The body is now being housed by a funeral home in Edmonton. A new funeral service is being planned in Edmonton, and Montgomery said a committal service will be held in Fort McMurray at a later date.

    “We’ve definitely been in contact with the family. I can only imagine they’re relieved to know that they [don’t] have to worry about [it] for the time being,” Montgomery said.

Metis teen finishes 420-kilometre run, raises $10K for Drag the Red

WINNIPEG —; A Metis teen who lost her cousin to suicide ran the equivalent of a marathon a day for 10 days to raise more than $10,000 for a volunteer group that helped find his body.

Kayleen McKay began her journey April 30 at the graveyard in Duck Bay on the west shore of Manitoba’s Lake Winnipegosis and finished Tuesday in Winnipeg.

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    Supporters greeted her with cheers and drumming just steps from the Red River where her cousin Shawn Nepinak’s body was found last summer by members of Drag The Red — volunteers who dredge the river searching for clues about missing and murdered loved ones.

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    “I wanted to give back to them,” said McKay, 18.

    “They could have easily turned their backs on us and been like, ‘No, we’re not going to help you. Leave it to the authorities.’ But they were there since day one.”

    Drag The Red was formed after the body of 15-year-old Tina Fontaine was pulled from the river in 2014. Volunteers hoping to dig up clues about people who have vanished go out in boats equipped with hooks that comb the bottom of the river flowing through Winnipeg.

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    McKay’s aim was to raise $10,000. Donations are still coming in, but she has already exceeded her goal.

    As she ran through western Manitoba, people would stop and give her money, she said. Many would tell her their own stories of loved ones who were missing or had been murdered. In the end, McKay said, she realized she was running for more than just herself or her cousin.

    “It really touched my heart. Every time I heard a new story, I would just keep it in the back of my head. When I felt down, I would just think of them and their families. It gave me that push to keep going.”

    Losing a cousin McKay considered a brother was not her first brush with tragedy. Her cousin, Carolyn Sinclair, 25, was murdered by serial killer Shawn Lamb in 2012.

    Kimberley Kostiuk’s daughter was murdered 16 years ago. She joined Drag The Red three years ago as a way to channel her grief into helping others find closure.

    The money McKay raised will help buy the group a much-needed boat, she said.

    “It’s going to mean we’re going to be out there every day until we can’t go anymore.”

    David Chartrand, president of the Manitoba Metis Federation, said McKay’s determination means other aboriginal youth have a strong role model at a time when many struggle with loss, despair and suicide.

    “For change to occur, it has to happen in our own communities,” Chartrand said. “It’s going to take the youth to inspire the youth.

    “She is obviously carrying the torch on this one.”

Fort McMurray fire: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to visit city on Friday

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will pay a visit to the city of Fort McMurray on Friday.

Trudeau confirmed the trip in the House of Commons during Question Period on Tuesday afternoon. The prime minister is expected to spend the day visiting the area affected by a wildfire that local officials have dubbed “the beast.”

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The prime minister had previously said he would wait until the situation in the Alberta city had stabilized before heading out there, arguing that a visit from him would pull security and other resources away from the fire.

The fire forced the evacuation of Fort McMurray last week, and is estimated to have destroyed around 15 per cent of structures in the city. Some neighbourhoods were totally decimated, while others were largely untouched. The evacuation order remains in effect.

READ MORE: Notley, energy executives to discuss Fort McMurray wildfire’s impact on oilsands operations

Interim Conservative leader Rona Ambrose, who represents the Alberta riding of Sturgeon River-Parkland, has spent the last several days in the area around Fort McMurray.

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