NALCOR Generations Behind
Muskrat Falls and Holyrood are still not settled
Last week, the Public Utilities Board secretary wrote officials at NALCOR - currently doing business as NL Hydro - to complain that NALCOR is falling behind with reports the company is supposed to file on things like what happens to water levels in the reservoir at Muskrat Falls if the Labrador Island Link goes down for an extended period and that two other reports on front-end engineering and design aren’t even mentioned. There were a couple of other bits of scolding in the two-pager including reference to the possibility of short-term sales to Hydro-Quebec.
These are not new issues. There have been regular outbreaks of letter-writing back and forth overt the past year or two between the PUB and NALCOR about these reports, all part of an ongoing review of NALCOR’s generation and transmission resources to meet domestic needs in the province. It started in 2018 with a new report from NALCOR to the Board to update an earlier study done in 2012. There have been updates every year since, but not one in 2023, which is part of the problem currently.
All of this is a reminder of all the things that Muskrat Falls was supposed to settle are still unsettled. To appreciate how old this stuff is, cast your mind back toFebruary 2016, for example, when a columnist at the Telegram actually wrote about “a whole lot of uncertainty when it comes to this province’s future power supply.”
The Telegram’s new Nova Scotian overlords long ago disappeared the archive of those old columns but you can find a snippet in an old Bond column, along with the wry observation that having the Telly - and specifically former editor Peter Jackson - not swallowing NALCOR’s lined whole and spitting them back out at naysayers was a sign of how much trouble NALCOR was in.
The problem eight years after Jackson’s column and now 14 years after Danny Williams announced his legacy project is that NACLOR - and by extension the provincial government - still doesn’t (don’t) have a viable plan:
to get electricity reliably from Muskrat Falls to the island and other customers on a line that works at full capacity,
to get electricity to island customers reliably when the Labrador Island Link goes down for a long time, like say a week or more,
to shut down Holyrood as originally promised, or for that matter,
to replace Holyrood with new thermal generation (last year’s planned closure date of 2030 planned just last year is now at least 2035), or
to do much of anything else with all the outrageously high demand for electricity to feed all the marvellous hydrogen mills that are supposed to be self-sustaining, or
name just about anything else connected to electricity in the province *including* the plan announced two years ago to “mitigate” the impact of Muskrat Falls from provincial electricity rates (the one announced isn’t actually finished and won’t actually reduce the impact of the folly on rates, just sort of delay it a bit).
Fresh from his junkets to London - shilling for WestJet - and Dubai, Andrew Furey turned up in Montreal over the weekend where he took in a hockey game. Not clear if Furey sat with Quebec Premier Francois Legault, who tweeted a picture of the pair in the hallways of the stadium.
As usual, the Premier of Quebec keeps Newfoundlanders and Labradorians better informed than their own Premier. He also got in a subtle dig at Furey’s expense, it seems, with his reference to paying for his own ticket. Furey said the same thing about a junket to John Risley’s fishing camp - I paid for my own ticket - only to later to turn up receipts that showed his wife paid for the trip for her husband and her father-in-law, the retired Senator, to go fishing with the proponent of a multi-billion hydrogen project that will need more electricity to operate than the entire Lower Churchill, including the unbuilt Gull Island.
Legault’s Twitter feed also shared some pictures of Quebec energy minister Pierre Fitzgibbon on a tour of a wind turbine manufacturing plant last week. The caption: “Visite de l’usine de pales de LM Wind Power à Gaspé. Un mot me vient à l’esprit : impressionnant. L’usine produit les plus longues pales d’éoliennes au monde. Une fierté d’avoir développé cette expertise chez nous en Gaspésie!”
[Translation] Visit to the LM Wind Power blade factory in Gaspé. One word comes to mind: impressive. The factory produces the longest wind turbine blades in the world. We are proud to have developed this expertise here in Gaspésie!
Fitzgibbon’s feed is full of news about battery plants and other projects linked to renewable energy, as well as a recent meeting Fitzgibbon had with the Belgian energy minister. Furey’s feed? There’s a nice shot of him at the Frosty festival on Saturday. Nothing about that sort of economic seriousness.
There was a reason Fitzgibbon was at a plant last week that makes wind turbine blades in Gaspe. Sure, it’s a good political image for a party in trouble with voters to highlight a major pile of jobs in renewable energy. But what we should notice here is that - in frighteningly sharp contrast to NALCOR - the before the visit Hydro-Quebec announced *another* eight projects that will add about 1550 megawatts of generating capacity to the HQ supply.
“The eight submissions come from five different promoters,” The Montreal Gazette reported on 26 January. “The average cost of supply anticipated in the winning bids is 7.8 cents per kilowatt-hour, not including transportation and balancing.” The projects will come on line between 2027 and 2029. Some involve nearby Indigenous communities as partners.
These are not the first wind projects for Hydro-Quebec nor will they be the last for Quebec, which needs to add 10 times the amount of new generation to me expected domestic demand through to 2050. Plus, that wind turbine blade manufacturing plant will feed what is a global need. Wind energy continues to be growing globally, despite challenges in economics due to rising costs, sometimes limited supply of essential materials, and complicated permitting. Some estimates put global wind energy growth this year at 11% above 2023. This is what an energy strategy looks like.
Meanwhile in Newfoundland and Labrador, NALCOR cannot finish its paperwork on time, Muskrat Falls is still an incoherent mess, and the province’s energy strategy is basically the failed 2007 pile of crap Danny Williams left behind next to a memo for Kathy Dunderdale about getting his girlfriend a job on the offshore board. Literally true.
On the upside though, Andrew Furey did have cooler shoes than Legault when he posed with the Quebec Premier at a hockey game like one of Francois Legault’s constituents.
That might give the mainland-oriented news media, political scientists, and the commentariat something to chew over as the federal Liberals flounder in the polls.
What do Andrew Furey’s Liberal-red shoes mean for Justin Trudeau: on-brand or off-brand?
Those are deep thoughts.
Cool Shoes. Cruel Shoes. Horseshoes. Horsefeathers. Either way, Bond Papers keeps you up on the latest things *you* need to know about Newfoundland and Labrador. Become a subscriber.