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Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Is Newfoundland and Labrador Being Sold Down The River on Lower Churchill?

CBC News is reporting today that they’ve uncovered a report, completed in 2005, at the request of the provincial government. The document states that while Newfoundland and Labrador has massive wind energy potential it does not have the capacity in its electrical infrastructure (grid) to handle that potential.

According to CBC, the government report says the grid will limit the size of potential projects despite having a “world-class wind resource”
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While the inability of the provincial grid to handle large scale wind power presents a serious problem it also points to an even bigger issue for Newfoundland and Labrador, both developmentally and politically.

Since taking office Premier Danny Williams and Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro CEO, Ed Martin, have been adament that they are seriously considering bypassing Quebec and using a maritime route to bring lower Churchill power to markets in Canada and the U.S. The question now becomes whether they are actually considering this option or if they’ve been misleading the public with politically motivated blather for months?

Everyone in the province knows that a maritime route will require the laying of an undersea cable from Labrador to the island of Newfoundland. The power would then need to travel down the Northern Peninsula and to another cable from the island to New Brunswick. While the public expected that additional costs would be associated with the undersea links, there now appears to be a major roadblock with transporting the power across the island itself.

If the existing grid can’t handle an additional few hundred megawatts of wind power what are the odds it can handle more than 2000 megawatts from the Lower Churchill?

Of course the public will have to wait for the release of the provincial energy plan, expected sometime this month, to find out if the province has plans to upgrade the provincial grid, but for now it looks like talk of a maritime route has been nothing more than rhetoric and politics at play.

I’ve always been a proponent of using as much lower Churchill power as possible inside the province, especially as a means to facilitate industrial expansion in Labrador. If the power can’t be used locally then at the very least our province needs to ensure that a repeat of the ransom demands Quebec presented on the upper Churchill are not repeated.

With the contents of this 2005 report now in the public domain, and with no major industrial giants lined up by the Williams government to use the power at home, it would seem the only options left are to once again go through Quebec, on its terms, or forget the project all together.

If that’s the case, I’ll take the latter option thank-you very much. I suspect most of the voters in the province will make the same choice.

12 comments:

Sue said...

You will not have industry line up for the power unless you send them the message that if you want the energy - which they do - you must come here to use it.
Otherwise they simply wait for Ontario or Quebec to pick it up. Recall will not work - you can close the door once the horse has left the barn.

disgusted said...

answers the question of why such a long wait on the "Energy Plan" now doesn't it.

Anonymous said...

I think the power should be used here anyway. If anyone tries to give it away to Quebec there'll be hell to pay and I'll be at the front of the line.

Mike said...

I'm still waiting for the energy plan before I jump to conclusions. Part of that could include an upgrade to the grid.

I'm not ready to hang anyone. Not yet anyway.

Anonymous said...

Why hasn't Danny tried to convince big industy (smelters, etc) to Labrador with this power? Why do we have to sell everything instead of using it here to grow our economy and keep our people at home?

Christ it seems like everytime we get something we can't wait to sell it or give it away.

Like Sue said, if we made sure everyone knew the only way to get at the power was to setup shop here then they might consider it. Otherwise we sell the power to Ontario and they get the industry while we get a few pennies. They get the jobs and we get nothing.

Anonymous said...

Atlantic Canada going through "jump" in major construction - think-tank

HALIFAX (CP) — Atlantic Canada is experiencing a significant jump in construction activity, thanks largely to energy and mining projects in Newfoundland and Labrador.

The Atlantic Provinces Economic Council, in its annual list of large-investment projects, has identified 407 projects in various stages of development across the region.

The independent think-tank says the total value this year is $72 billion, up 34 per cent when compared with last year's inventory.

Projects in Newfoundland and Labrador account for the largest share of the work at 44 per cent, followed by Nova Scotia with 28 per cent and New Brunswick at 26 per cent.

Prince Edward Island's share is slightly more than two per cent.

The research group says New Brunswick can expect a significant boost in major project investment next year, mainly because of work at the Point Lepreau nuclear plant, the liquefied natural gas project near Saint John, the Brunswick Pipeline and expansion at the Sussex potash mine.

The other provinces will also see some larger projects get rolling with the Deep Panuke offshore energy project scheduled to begin construction in 2008 in Nova Scotia and work on the expansion at the White Rose offshore oilfield planned for Newfoundland and Labrador.

The study notes there are several megaprojects that have gained momentum in the past year: two $5-billion refinery projects in New Brunswick and Newfoundland, a $4.5-billion petrochemical-LNG project in Nova Scotia and the $6-to $9-billion Lower Churchill hydroelectric project and $3-to $5-billion Hebron offshore oil project in Newfoundland.

The release says that if "a couple of these projects actually move forward in the next few years," the region will be in the midst of an investment boom.

The report says one of the key concerns the region faces if investment ramps up is the availability of skilled workers to build the projects.

It says competition from Alberta for many skilled trades is already strong.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps the $15 million of our tax dollars invested in buddy Dean's fiber interest would have been better spent upgrading infrastructure that is really needed? How many more hidden surprises are in store? I'm beginning to think that just maybe we've all been had yet again.

Stephen said...

Mike said...

I'm still waiting for the energy plan before I jump to conclusions. Part of that could include an upgrade to the grid.


I'm with Mike. Part of the development plan could include an upgrade to the grid.

Olympic organizers in BC didn't not bid on the Olympics, or not get them, because the highway going to Whistler was only two lanes - they're now adding lanes to the highway, no big deal. They built the Bull Arm site for Hibernia - the facilities weren't there beforehand. Same story and no need for concern.

Anonymous said...

Yes Danny should use his might powers of persuasion to put industries in Labrador.

Anonymous said...

The latest poll numbers in Newfoundland and Labrador according to VOCM News:

The provincial Tories have some new poll numbers to smile about as they head into an election in just over a month's time.

The latest Corporate Research Associates survey shows the governing PC's popularity has increased again, and now sits at 76 per cent of decided voters; the Liberals fell 3 points to 16 per cent. The NDP's support remains unchanged at 7 per cent. Undecided voters, those who don't plan to cast a ballot or refused to state a preference increased by 3 points to 18 per cent.

86 per cent of those asked are mostly or completely satisfied with the Tory government. 10 per cent are dissatisfied with their performance. And 77 per cent name Danny Williams as their choice for Premier. 9 per cent of those polled choose Liberal Leader Gerry Reid and 6 per cent choose NDP Leader Lorraine Michael.

The latest survey was conducted from August 9th to August 31st.

(Since the Hebron Announcment never came out until the 22nd and the poll was started on the 9th the Tory numbers are probably even higher than they show here.

Anonymous said...

As always Myles an excellent article.Well written and well done.

rant said...

Part of the development plan could include an upgrade to the grid

Newfoundland and Labrador has the potential to light up half the eastern seaboard of the United States.
With the ending of the deal with Quebec .The Province must become ready to use that power as it see's fit.Having both the upper and lower ChurchHill going at the same time,we must have away of getting thatpower to markets in the maritimes,and United States.

The cost in trades right now might be exspesive though.