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Muskrat Falls hydro project on track for 2017 power production: Emera CEO

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HALIFAX - The $7.7-billion Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project is on track as planned to start generating power in 2017 with full production the next year, the CEO of Nova Scotia utility company Emera (TSX:EMA) said Monday.

Chris Huskilson said the Maritime Link project, which is part of the overall Muskrat Falls development and will include a 170-kilometre subsea cable that links Cape Breton with southwestern Newfoundland, is also on time and he's confident electricity will begin flowing to Nova Scotia in three years.

"The Maritime Link project is on time and on budget," said Huskilson in an interview. "I'm very confident that the project will come in and deliver energy in 2017-18 as it was originally planned."

Huskilson's comments clash with those of Nalcor Energy CEO Ed Martin, who said last month that hopes of first power in 2017 were in question and production could be delayed. Nalcor Energy is the provincial Crown company that is now building the Muskrat Falls development in Labrador.

At the time, Martin told a news conference in St. John's, N.L., that costs were going up though he declined to confirm a new price tag while contracts for the dam were still being negotiated.

Huskilson spoke Monday at a meeting of the Atlantic Provinces Economic Council in Halifax, where he touted the major project as an economic driver for the region, with opportunities to sell power to the Unites States.

"This is a very significant project, one that I believe is very material to our future and one that I think there is a tremendous amount of opportunity," Huskilson told the crowd at the city's Pier 21.

"We see the opportunity to use the existing infrastructure, to use the infrastructure that we're building as part of Maritime Link and the Lower Churchill, and to begin to supply some of this energy to the New England market."

Emera estimates that the construction of the Maritime Link will create an average of 300 jobs per year during the construction period in both provinces, with peak activity in 2016.

Last month, Huskilson announced that Emera had secured $1.3 billion in financing on the bond market. He said the deal was made possible by a federal loan guarantee that offered Emera a triple-A credit rating.

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