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Thursday, July 07, 2005

Newfoundland and Labrador Considers Marketing Hydro Power in U.S.

In recent months I have written a number of articles related to development of the Lower Churchill Hydro Electric project in the big land of Labrador. The most recent pieces are still available on my personal web site, Web Talk – Newfoundland and Labrador.

One such article, dated March 15 of this year, deals with Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Danny Williams, and his public request for proposals to develop the project. Another, from early April, discusses the merits, or lack there of, of a proposal by Ontario and Hydro Quebec. A proposal that would see little by way of benefits for the province that owns the resource, while providing massive revenues to Quebec and a large power supply to Ontario.

It was in the March 15 article that I suggested we should look at running undersea cables onto the island, allowing both areas of the province to make use of this low cost power. The technique has been proven on the island of Hong Kong and as a result is not that far fetched. It’s a novel idea indeed, but one that now appears to be a possibility.

The Evening Telegram (located in St. John’s, NL) recently ran an article on one of twenty-five proposals submitted to the provincial government for development of this mega project. According to the article, a joint proposal was submitted by two companies, one from BC, the other from the state of Maine. This proposal would see power distributed via land and undersea cable, through the island portion of the province and into the US market, leaving Quebec out of the equation.

Power would be wheeled across the province, where it would tie into additional wind generated systems planned for the island, thus providing the low cost energy the province requires for economic growth. Excess power would then travel by undersea cable into the power grid on the eastern seaboard of the US.

I am not a proponent of shipping needed power out of the country, but I have to admit that this alternative sounds like it has merit. Most people in Newfoundland and Labrador are still reeling from a deal signed with Hydro Quebec on the Upper Churchill River project decades ago. One that currently sees hundreds of millions of dollars flow out of the province and into Quebec coffers while NL receives a pittance and is in desperate need of clean energy.

Due to the fact that Quebec geographically separates Newfoundland and Labrador from the rest of the country, moving power out of the area has always been contingent on that province. It appears that times are changing.

I have nothing against the people of Ontario or Quebec but government and big business in these provinces have, for decades, used their political strength, goegraphy and deep pockets to plunder the rich resources of Canada's newest province. It is truly time they learned that this will not continue.

If the country of Canada is truly in need of new power sources, as Ontario can attest, then it’s time for those who want this valuable commodity to step up to the plate and make an offer that will see the poorest province in the country receive a fair return on the resource. If the powers that be, are so short sighted as to not see the value of this asset then perhaps Premier Williams should seriously examine all options before him, including cutting the rest of the country out of the loop.

In a world of Kyoto, greenhouse gas emissions, high energy consumption and even higher energy costs, clean energy is arguably one of the most valuable resources on the planet. It’s clear that the proponents of this latest proposal can see just that. The question is, does Premier Williams and just as importantly, will the rest of the country?


Freedom Fighter said...

This is GREAT NEWS!!!

Its about time we started thinking outside the box.

We could use this power and at least we can sell it at a fair price instead of being gouged like we are now on the upper churchill.

Anonymous said...

Keep the idea moving – it’s a good one. Currently Quebec is limited in its attempts to export electricity to the NY and New England market due to reliability issues, namely the purchaser needs to be able to survive the loss of generation caused by the largest single contingency, currently “the loss of the HQ system” and loss of all import. An independent source “not synchronized to Quebec” should be able to export nearly as much power as Quebec is able into the New England / NY market.

Peter in Perth said...

Its a great bargaining chip.