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Nova Scotia Power’s $228m capital plan gets green light

The provincial regulator has approved Nova Scotia Power’s $228-million capital plan, which includes new transmission for wind farms and the Maritime Link.

The Utility and Review Board gave the nod to the power company’s 2014 spending proposal Tuesday.

The plan includes $94.1 million for 43 new projects. Another $21 million is for work worth less than $250,000 and which doesn’t need board approval.

There’s also $69.1 million set aside for projects to be filed later. The remaining $43.8 million is for previously approved capital work that carried over into this year.

A Nova Scotia Power spokeswoman said the company worked with the board and customer representatives on the plan’s approval.

“Capital spending reflects our focus on affordability while ensuring that we’re making the required investments for a safe and reliable system,” Neera Ritcey said in an interview.

The bulk of the overall $228-million capital plan – $163.9 million – is for sustaining infrastructure. There is also $48.8 million for wind and related transmission.

Two wind projects – South Canoe in Lunenburg County and Sable Wind in Guysborough – are under construction this year. Nova Scotia Power is a minority partner in both ventures.

The plan also includes $16.6 million for transmission related to the link, the subsea cable project between Newfoundland and Cape Breton. The remaining $8.7 million is for LED street-light replacement.

The power company asked the board to approve the plan in November, although revisions were later made. A hearing was held in March.

Nova Scotia Power reduced capital spending last year, saying the smaller plan was the result of new generation coming online, coupled with better system reliability.

In Tuesday’s decision, the board said this year’s proposed spending plan is $20 million higher than last year’s actual capital spending.

Interveners didn’t object to any 2014 projects, although the consumer advocate, small-business advocate and industrial group all had questions about rising capital costs for the new Point Tupper biomass plant.

The regulator approved $1.5 million in proposed capital work at the Cape Breton facility. But the board said it will continue to monitor biomass projects in case of further increases.

Power company officials told the board the increased expendi-tures in the plant’s early years of operation aren’t expected to continue in the longer term.