Talks in limbo pending review

Rob Antle
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ENERGY/LOWER CHURCHILL Premier complains about pace of process for transmission rights

Negotiations with potential clients of Lower Churchill power are in limbo while Quebec regulators consider a Newfoundland and Labrador request to transmit electricity through that province.

"They want the power, but unless we can get it to them, it's irrelevant," Premier Danny Williams told the editorial board of The Telegram last week.

Negotiations with potential clients of Lower Churchill power are in limbo while Quebec regulators consider a Newfoundland and Labrador request to transmit electricity through that province.

"They want the power, but unless we can get it to them, it's irrelevant," Premier Danny Williams told the editorial board of The Telegram last week.

"So we have to go through the applications that we're going through. We have to go through the regulatory process in Quebec in order to get access to the lines that are in Quebec, which are supposed to be openly accessible."

Williams has complained about the pace of that process, saying Quebec has thrown procedural obstacles at it to "clog it up and block it up."

According to the premier, hearings have again been delayed, this time until January.

In the interim, he said, the province continues to conduct necessary studies and engineering work for the Lower Churchill.

He said that a decision to generate power on a different side of the chute will save the province $1 billion.

"We're still advancing, we're finding ways to bring this to a head," Williams noted. "And we can get the power built, and we can generate it. But unless we've got a pipeline to put it on, a pipeline in a general term, it doesn't go anywhere."

That, Williams said, is the reason why the province is also exploring the Maritime route bypassing Quebec altogether.

The premier said Newfoundland and Labrador has been working on an "Atlantic partnership" for Lower Churchill power involving all four provinces in the region.

That plan would see a large block of power reserved for industrial use in Labrador, another block for the island's power needs and sales to other Atlantic provinces and the United States.

The strategy would have seen a 400 megawatt block of power for New Brunswick.

Hydro-Quebec's pending takeover of NB Power "doesn't help" the plan, Williams acknowledged.

He also fears New Brunswick could throw "procedural blocks" in the way of plans to transmit Lower Churchill power to U.S. markets via the Maritime route.

"So, what could happen in New Brunswick is, if Quebec behaves the same way as they did in Quebec, with New Brunswick hydro, they could try and block us up, or slow us down on access," Williams said. "But technically, we should be able to get through."

Officials with Hydro-Quebec and the New Brunswick government have publicly downplayed concerns over access.

The premier has complained that the New Brunswick deal - and potential acquisitions in Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island - will give Quebec a stranglehold on the economic direction of the region.

rantle@thetelegram.com

Organizations: The Telegram, Hydro-Quebec, NB Power

Geographic location: Quebec, Newfoundland and Labrador, New Brunswick United States Nova Scotia Prince Edward Island

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  • scott
    July 02, 2010 - 13:31

    My understanding from what i have read is that there is no spare transmission capacity in Quebec. In addition to the 5,000 MW from the Upper Churchill, Hydro Quebec generates 30,000 MW of their own power that comes mostly from existing hydro sites along the St. Lawrence river and from the La Grande development in northwestern Quebec.

    That means any new hydro developments whether in Quebec or Labrador will require the construction of new transmission lines that are very expensive. I understand Hydro Quebec is currently negotiating a contract to build a new 1,200 MW capacity transmission line in New England for it's own use.

    It seems to me that new hydro developments whether the 1,500 MW Romaine River in Quebec or the 3,0000 MW Lower Churchill will require additional new transmission lines to get the power to the U.S.

    Obviously no company including Hydro Quebec or NB Power or Nalcor or Nova Scotia Power or anybody else is going to spend billions of dollars on new transmission lines for Lower Churchill power until the project gets final approval, a route to market is agreed on, and the power supplier is willing to sign a long term contract to lease the new transmission line that must be built through several provinces and states.

    Electricity is different than oil or nickel where you simply load the product aboard a boat and ship it off to whoever wants to buy it at market prices.

    Hydro plants require a fixed transmission line from the dam to the customer. That makes developing a remote hydro site much more complex and difficult than developing a mine or oil field.

    Talks of developing the Lower Churchill have been ongoing for at least 30 years, and nobody has been able to reach a suitable deal yet. Maybe this time they will reach a deal but that will neither be easy or certain.

  • joan
    July 02, 2010 - 13:16

    What does Danny Williams expect?He has fought with everyone under the sun,for his own political ends.Were is the big puffy chess he has ,just before an election,when he tells everyone he'll go it alone on the lower churchill?What about Hebron? Just 10 more yrs?? This guy is so full of it,you can almost smell it through the tv screen

  • scott
    July 01, 2010 - 20:19

    My understanding from what i have read is that there is no spare transmission capacity in Quebec. In addition to the 5,000 MW from the Upper Churchill, Hydro Quebec generates 30,000 MW of their own power that comes mostly from existing hydro sites along the St. Lawrence river and from the La Grande development in northwestern Quebec.

    That means any new hydro developments whether in Quebec or Labrador will require the construction of new transmission lines that are very expensive. I understand Hydro Quebec is currently negotiating a contract to build a new 1,200 MW capacity transmission line in New England for it's own use.

    It seems to me that new hydro developments whether the 1,500 MW Romaine River in Quebec or the 3,0000 MW Lower Churchill will require additional new transmission lines to get the power to the U.S.

    Obviously no company including Hydro Quebec or NB Power or Nalcor or Nova Scotia Power or anybody else is going to spend billions of dollars on new transmission lines for Lower Churchill power until the project gets final approval, a route to market is agreed on, and the power supplier is willing to sign a long term contract to lease the new transmission line that must be built through several provinces and states.

    Electricity is different than oil or nickel where you simply load the product aboard a boat and ship it off to whoever wants to buy it at market prices.

    Hydro plants require a fixed transmission line from the dam to the customer. That makes developing a remote hydro site much more complex and difficult than developing a mine or oil field.

    Talks of developing the Lower Churchill have been ongoing for at least 30 years, and nobody has been able to reach a suitable deal yet. Maybe this time they will reach a deal but that will neither be easy or certain.

  • joan
    July 01, 2010 - 19:57

    What does Danny Williams expect?He has fought with everyone under the sun,for his own political ends.Were is the big puffy chess he has ,just before an election,when he tells everyone he'll go it alone on the lower churchill?What about Hebron? Just 10 more yrs?? This guy is so full of it,you can almost smell it through the tv screen