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Chris Huskilson Addresses members of G.B. Chamber of Commerce

March 30, 2009
Christopher Huskilson, President and CEO, EMERA, Halifax, Nova Scotia
Christopher Huskilson, President and CEO, EMERA, Halifax, Nova Scotia

I’m pleased to be able to introduce our Company—Emera—to you. And thank you for this warm welcome. It has meant a lot for me…and others with Emera…to be greeted warming to this business community.

And we are excited to be here. When people ask me why we invested in Grand Bahama Power….I am delighted to give the answer.

We see great potential in Grand Bahama….it has great potential for growth…and to position itself with strength in the Carribean. We take pride in recognizing a good investment. And we are eager to help you…our customers…and this island realize that potential.

After all, we share a lot. We share a maritime background. And with that comes some fundamental values. An appreciation and respect for the power of the ocean and nature. An appreciation of tradition. And of course self-reliance… and self-sufficiency.

I could give you a lot of facts about Emera. But really, over time, I want to show you the kind of company we are. Emera began as Nova Scotia Power… generating electricity and distributing power for about 1 million people in the province of Nova Scotia, Canada.

As you saw in the video… some of our hydro facilities are more than a hundred years old… literally since the very birth of the industry. We were one of the first utilities in Canada to install wind turbines to generate power for our customers.

We built the first pulverized coal plant in North America at the turn of the last century and we built the largest clean coal unit in the world in 1994. We run the only tidal power plant in North America.
And this summer we will deploy another first. We will install new in-stream tidal power technology. Emera has a history of innovation… and we are very proud of that tradition.

We also have a history of caring about the safety of our employees and the public. Nova Scotia Power is one of the safest utilities in Canada and Bangor Hydro was the first safe utility recognized in New England.

One of our thermal power plants just marked 1-million man-hours without a lost time injury. That culture of safety is one we have instilled in all Emera companies.

And most importantly… a word about our people.

Of course I’m very proud of them, because of their dedication and professionalism. But it is their dedication to community that stands out. You could sum up that attitude with one phrase… they give were they live and work.

Giving back to our communities is a tradition at Emera. I want you to know the kind of company Emera is… and how we view the communities in which we invest and operate. As you saw in the video, our core business is electricity.

Making it……and bringing it to customers by investing in people.

Nova Scotia Power was the first, but not the only utility, that Emera owns. We have invested in Bangor Hydro in the state of Maine, and in St. Lucia Electric Services on the island of St. Lucia. Our energy investments extend beyond electricity….to gas pipelines, independent power, energy services and support. And of course, the reason I am here today. We are proud to have recently invested in the Grand Bahama Power Company.

We invested in the Bahamas because of the potential for enormous growth… and because we believe we can add value for our customers. I think of our relationship as a growing partnership. We have much to learn from each other… and together we can make things better for our customers here in the Bahamas.

A strong… financially-healthy… electric utility is fundamental to a strong, healthy economy. Emera builds strong….healthy utilities. We maintain them….and we invest in them.

We’ve been in the electricity business for more than one-hundred years….and we are here to stay. So how do we build strong…healthy utilities? What lessons and experiences do we have that can apply here?

Geography means we share many of the same challenges. Now I can tell you, Nova Scotia is not an island… but it’s darn close! In some ways we share your challenges of isolation… and economies of scale.

And we share something else… a reliance on fossil fuels. This past year… utilities, which depend on fossil fuels, have given their customers a wild ride. For me… it has a feeling of déjà vu.

The OPEC oil crisis of the ’70’s… was certainly a crisis for Nova Scotia. At that time the majority of electricity in the province was produced from oil at less than $3/bbl. Suddenly because of forces outside our control… we had to change.

In less than a decade… the majority of our electricity was produced by domestic coal at 1/3rd of the cost of oil. We diversified. Stabilized prices. And in doing so… brought stability to the economy of the province. It required tough decisions on both the part of the utility and government leaders…… and patience to get it done.

A generation later… we now face another fundamental challenge. For many reasons… the coal mines in Nova Scotia were shut down. Suddenly we had to learn new ways of doing things.

We had to buy our fuel on the world market and look to more renewable energy. Security of supply became paramount. A company so proud of its energy independence and self-sufficiency… was now a small player in a very big market.

It was challenging; we had many growing pains. Some very important lessons were learned. And we are transforming our electric utility. We are learning new skills….and we are better positioned to face the future.

We diversified our generation. We invested in renewable energy. We developed the skills and people needed to operate a successful fuel and renewables portfolio. I am sure you can see the parallels between our experience in Nova Scotia… and your current experiences.

There is always opportunity within change. The challenge for leaders in both industry and in government...… is to see the opportunity.

And to have the vision and the courage to make bold decisions….because decisions about energy generation are expensive……and we live with them for a very long time.

You’re facing challenges….in terms of your energy infrastructure and your energy security. And I believe there are opportunities in those changing conditions.

As we have done in other markets… we must diversify… and reduce our reliance on fossil fuels. The “key” to a more stable, healthy utility… is diversification. And the first place to look is in our own backyard. As we have done in Nova Scotia, we must look at what nature has provided.

Here, we have the sun, the ocean and the winds. We must start there.
And we have already started! We are collaborating with Grand Bahama Power Company on wind data collection.

As we have done elsewhere, we are exploring wind sites. Specifically, we are looking at sites on the East end, the West end, Burmah, Dover Sound and Holmes Rock. The Freeport Container Port is another potential site.

We are working with the Government of the Bahamas, the Port Authority, and the Freeport Container Port so we can begin to monitor wind on these sites as soon as possible.

Wind technology is proven, cost effective and the fuel is free! Taking advantage of this resource has clear benefits….to our customers.

Wind, of course, is not a perfect fuel. Because the energy produced is intermittent….we would have to integrate it gradually into the system….but the benefits outweigh the difficulties.

In time…. we will also investigate tidal and ocean current potential.

This type of technology is still in its infancy…..(and I’ll talk a little more about our experience in that area in a moment)….but it in the long term…it will be an obvious an area of interest for us.

Renewable energy is not a “passing fad”….it is a quickly evolving industry. Machines that were just an idea a few years ago…are being tested now. Each generation of wind turbine gets more efficient, requires less maintenance and is more cost competitive.

We are excited about exploring the opportunities here. Each nation… each island… will have its own unique set of solutions. I can speak briefly about our experience in St. Lucia.To grow the economy of St. Lucia… the island needs lower electricity prices… and it needs more stable prices.

Currently, we are working to diversify the generation mix for the island. It will include renewables, fuel conversions and new facilities.

We have, in fact, formed a strategic partnership with Lucelec. As a result, we have approached helping St. Lucia on several important fronts:

Lucelec’s first priority was cost. The island is highly dependant on oil, subject to high emissions and volatile oil prices. We are working to improve cost and reduce oil dependence in three ways:

First. Fuel price hedging – we have introduced a financial fuel hedging program to take out the swings and volatility in their oil costs and to make the price of electricity more predictable and stable;

Second. Introducing renewables – wind, solar, biomass and geothermal. The island has an abundance of these resources and a gradual introduction of each source will allow them to play to their natural strengths and ultimately reduce hydrocarbon dependence.

Third. Moving the country’s generation away from oil – we have proposed the introduction of a new, highly flexible, lower emissions power plant technology that can burn many fuels and reduce their oil dependence and overall cost by 30-70%.

Depending on your view of the price of oil.

Less significant to St. Lucia, but important in the overall scheme, is improving outage rates. It is essential to the economy of the island that the lights stay on. Generally, the outage rates in St. Lucia are better than the Caribbean average, but there is more that can be done.

As a result, we are working with Lucelec to introduce a root cause approach to the elimination of unnecessary outages on the island.

These changes will create jobs, stimulate the economy, reduce emissions, and reduce fuel costs. This is the kind of strategic partnership that can work.

Expertise from a partner such as Emera, can be combined with the determination of a highly motivated leadership to create opportunities. Another important part of that partnership is the development and enhancement of critical skills.

Diversifying the generation in Grand Bahama will create the need for new skills. We can grow those skills at home... in the Bahamas. That’s the kind of collaboration which benefits everyone.

I want to conclude by showing you an example of how Emera is using strategic skills of another company. In this case… our partnership with OpenHydro of Dublin, Ireland… to install cutting edge… world class technology… in the Bay of Fundy in Nova Scotia.

In our industry, you could say that no nation can afford to be an island when it comes to energy. Clearly, we are stronger when we work together. The reason we highlight our involvement with the OpenHydro tidal project…… is because it shows a lot about the way we do business…… and the way we partner with other companies.

When we realized the full potential of the tidal energy in the Bay of Fundy… Emera went looking for a partner. We were specific about what we wanted. We didn’t want a company to just provide us with a machine to put in the water…… we wanted a partner who would stick with us and develop the technology, the expertise and the skills to benefit the region.

Once we choose OpenHydro…..Emera invested in that company…and now are able to take part fully in this historic opportunity. In Nova Scotia, we have been fortunate to partner with world leaders in their fields for our energy development. We are demanding when it comes to our partners. We expect them to bring a lot to the table.

Desire and excitement is not enough. They must be strong investors with good technology and a proven track record. These are the ingredients for success. And I encourage you to be demanding when it comes to your partners. We are ready for the challenge.

We may be newcomers to the Bahamas. But we are not newcomers when it comes to the electricity business. There is potential in the natural conditions you have on the Bahamas… and that will lead to opportunity. We are here to build a stronger utility. And we are here to stay.

Thank you for your attention.

I will be happy to answer any questions.