Here's to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the
round pegs in the square holes... the ones who see things differently -- they're
not fond of rules... You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify
them, but the only thing you can't do is ignore them because they change
things... they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the
crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that
they can change the world, are the ones who do.

Steve Jobs
US computer engineer & industrialist (1955 - 2011)

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Borrowing from Peter to Pay Paul - Nalcor, the Government of NL, and Us

The government of Newfoundland and Labrador is about to make us the laughing stock of the country - again. What's the old saying: fool me once, shame on me, fool me twice, shame on you? That is the stunning revelation written by The Telegram's reporter James MacLeod. His story, printed in this Saturday's paper   says it all - if you read between the lines, and it's not that hard to do.

First off, Nalcor rolls out two new names as reps for the company: Greg Jones (Marketing Manager); and Rob Henderson (Vice-President of something or other). Until now the primary spokesperson from Nalcor has been Vice-President in charge of Muskrat Falls Gilbert Bennett. The other spokesman, on a less frequent basis, has been Nalcor President Ed Martin. Secondly, the announcement comes just before the Christmas holidays, and after the House of Assembly is closed until spring. The most shocking thing though is the message - we are going to be buying power from the US.

Come again you say? We are going to be buying power from the US? Wasn't the plan to be selling power into the US market? The newest twist on the Muskrat Falls fiasco is, in reality, a stunning admission that the Water Management Agreement (WMA) is unconstitutional, and here's why.

Mr. Jones and Henderson state the plan is to allow water to build up in the reservoir, and during this period the dams would be shut down. During the shut down process the province would buy power from the US market. Once the dam reservoir is full, we stop buying power from the US. Sound familiar? It should. It is a seriously bastardized version of the whole "banking" energy plan of the government and Nalcor. Under that deal, enshrined in the WMA, Nalcor would take power from the Upper Churchill when it needed the power and then send the power back during the spring when its reservoir was full, and the dam could operate past 20% firm capacity. This "new" US purchasing of power, in theory, would replace the need for the WMA.

That raises a number of very serious questions, or it should. First, its a stunning admission that the WMA is a deeply flawed document, and the government broke the law by passing it in the first place. If the WMA was legal, Nalcor could take all the power they needed at any time, and according to Nalcor's interpretation, an extra 1500 MW a year on top of that from the Upper Churchill. Obviously, in that case, there would be no need to purchase power from the US or shut a dam down to fill a reservoir. That is the first obvious conclusion. The second conclusion to be drawn is the government is trying to get ahead of the political fire storm which will be ignited when Hydro-Quebec wins their court challenge against us on January 20, 2014. With a US purchase plan they can say that the WMA is no longer of any importance, because they can use the US power to do the same thing - so no biggy.

Then there are some further obvious questions. If the link to Nova Scotia is capable of carrying only 500 MW of power, and 20% of that is being dealt to Emera free for compensation to build the link (25% in the first five years), and Emera has a further option at market rates on the remainder, how will sufficient power be transmitted back from the US on the same line? After all, in theory only, Muskrat Falls is supposed to produce 800 plus MW a year. If say only 300 MW can be transmitted back to Newfoundland from the US, what makes up the 500 MW difference? Well one answer is likely to be: "we don't need all that power now". That seems to be a familiar refrain during this save face at any cost project. A question to that answer would be:" If we don't need that power why are we spending $8-10 billion building the dam?"

The Government of Newfoundland and Labrador is quickly becoming farcical. As we say in this province "too foolish to talk about". But we must. We must talk about it, because it's our financial future on the line. In no other province would a government get away with anything close to the gross incompetence, and spiteful stupidity this government has in this province. The fact that reporter James MacLeod fails to even connect the dots outlined above gives you a hint why they have so far. In any free society, a free and critically thinking press is necessary to hold the government accountable. It's not just up to the Official Opposition. In this province our media, with a few exceptions, simply relays the government message rather than critically challenge it. It's an all too familiar refrain here. This whole issue, including the economics of it, and the impending failure of the WMA in Quebec Superior Court, will play out in the new year. What we need is a press that does not simply repeat what they are told by the government and Nalcor, but actually dissects it. The people need to be "honestly" informed about what is happening to them now and in the future. This terrible admission that we must buy power from the US and shut dams down to fill reservoirs, proves yet again that we can not trust this government.


  1. It completely blew me away when I read the news article, it's almost beyond belief. I don't think people will realize what is happening until they start getting the hydro bills. I can tell you one thing about this province; if you got some bullshit you want to sell, this is the place to do it.

  2. Brad, they can't get power from the US through NS the line between NS and NB is at full capacity.


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