Hearings at Quebec regulator wrap up

Rob Antle
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Energy Nalcor lays out case for transmission access

They've made their case. Now they're waiting for a decision.

But whatever happens, Nalcor Energy says it will be able to move forward and assess its options for the potential Lower Churchill hydroelectric project.

Four weeks of hearings into a series of complaints by Newfoundland and Labrador's energy corporation over access to the Quebec's transmission system wrapped up Friday.

They've made their case. Now they're waiting for a decision.

But whatever happens, Nalcor Energy says it will be able to move forward and assess its options for the potential Lower Churchill hydroelectric project.

Four weeks of hearings into a series of complaints by Newfoundland and Labrador's energy corporation over access to the Quebec's transmission system wrapped up Friday.

Quebec's public utilities regulator, the Regie de l'energie, is expected to release its rulings by March.

"Our people clearly laid out the situation and made the case that we wanted to make," Nalcor CEO Ed Martin said Friday.

At its core, the power struggle revolves around Nalcor's ability to transmit Lower Churchill power across Quebec into other markets, and how much it will cost to do so.

"In Quebec, we've made it clear to the public that we're prepared to pay a substantive rental," Martin said.

"We're prepared to pay upgrades, as long as they're reasonable. On top of that, all we're asking in return is to be treated fairly, like Hydro-Quebec is treating themselves and others."

Transmission upgrades in Quebec have an estimated price tag of up to $3 billion for Nalcor, assuming all Lower Churchill power went to market via that route. But Martin has expressed concern with that figure, saying Nalcor wants it checked out.

The Regie's decisions should provide a level of certainty on costs and access, and help move the Lower Churchill process forward.

"With certainty, I can complete my economic modelling," Martin said. "I can complete the options. I can then sit down with the province and say, 'Look, here is the situation, here are the options and we need to make a call so we can move on to the next stage.'"

The process that ended on Friday began roughly four years ago, when Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro initially filed its access requests with Hydro-Quebec TransEnergie - the Quebec power giant's transmission arm.

In addition to its complaints to the Regie, Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro has also made U.S. regulators aware of its concerns on access in Quebec. American rules require that companies selling power in the U.S. do not block competitors' access to transmission lines taking electricity into those markets.

rantle@thetelegram.com

Organizations: Regie de l'energie, Hydro-Quebec, Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro

Geographic location: Quebec, Newfoundland and Labrador, U.S.

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