P.E.I. in talks to buy electricity from Quebec

Teresa Wright twright@theguardian.pe.ca
Published on December 26, 2014

Quebec Liberal Leader Philippe Couillard waves to supporters during his victory speech, Monday, April 7, 2014 in St-Felicien, Que. Quebecers voted for a Liberal majority government.

©Canadian Press photo

Prince Edward Island has begun preliminary negotiations to purchase electricity from Quebec.

P.E.I. Premier Robert Ghiz sat down with Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard last week to discuss a plan that would see Prince Edward Island purchase upwards of 100 megawatts of energy from Hydro-Québec.

“We’re always looking for ways to lower down our electricity costs but also in terms of providing more green energy for our province,” Ghiz said.

“I wanted to take this opportunity to sit down with Premier Couillard to start some discussions on Prince Edward Island, or Maritime Electric, purchasing some of their hydro-electricity.”

Ghiz acknowledged the talks are preliminary, as P.E.I. is still under a power purchase agreement with New Brunswick as part of the five-year, $60-million P.E.I. Energy Accord.

That agreement does not expire until 2016.

But as the province continues to try to negotiate funding for a third underwater power cable to the mainland, some preliminary negotiations are already underway to ensure P.E.I. can secure the most affordable electricity rates possible.

Ghiz added that P.E.I. was able to secure a better deal with New Brunswick under the Energy Accord because it was also in discussions with Quebec at that time.

“This is just opening the door as we move forward to look for the best possible price and also the greenest power moving forward,” Ghiz said.

He added that no matter what happens with these negotiations, P.E.I. would be purchasing some power from New Brunswick since P.E.I. has a five-per cent stake in the Point Lepreau nuclear power plant.

A 100-megawatt power purchase agreement with P.E.I. would be a small contract for Hydro-Québec, which produces in excess of 40,000 megawatts of energy.

Nonetheless, Ghiz said Couillard was receptive to his pitch, in part because of the good relationship he was able to foster with the new federalist premier during the Council of the Federation meetings in Charlottetown this summer.

During the close of those meetings, Ghiz in fact referenced the strong consensus around the premiers’ table as a means to open the door to more electricity options for P.E.I.

As he enters his final days as premier of P.E.I., Ghiz says he hopes to do what he can to build on that work and try to get negotiate good energy rates for Islanders into the future.

“Our peak demand is rising and we do need to buy excess energy, and I’d rather buy it at the best possible price and at the greenest level possible,” Ghiz said.

He says he will continue his discussions with Couillard at the upcoming mid-year Council of the Federation meetings in Ontario in January.