Nalcor Energy has taken another hit to its work scheduling. The Board of Commissioners of Public Utilities (PUB) has refused to even consider, for now, approving the use of $2.6 million by Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro for a new 230 kV transmission line in Eastern Newfoundland - from the Bay d'Espoir hydro plant to the Western Avalon.
The new line has been proposed as a means to supplying the growing demand for energy in the expanding metro area, while easing some of the reliance on the Holyrood facility.
The line is one piece of the 2012 capital budget proposed by Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro, a Nalcor subsidiary.
The rest of the proposed $87.9 million in capital spending for Hydro is to cover planned work at the Holyrood thermal generating station and, collectively, the rest of the work for the year (generally in line with previous years).
The budget was filed for review with the PUB in August and has yet to reach final approval.
In a Dec. 14 letter from the PUB to a Hydro lawyer, the board stated setting aside the proposed new line will "ensure the timely conclusion of Hydro's 2012 Capital Budget Application."
The board stated "it appears that it was premature for Hydro to include this proposal" in its 2012 capital budget, as information on the project required for the PUB to review and approve the plan was not readily available.
The board pointed to an engineering report not filed until late September and requests for information that remain unanswered.
In earlier correspondence between the PUB and Hydro, Hydro noted there has been a great deal of work put into gathering and sharing of information on the larger Muskrat Falls hydro project.
Hydro stated approval for the new line in the 2012 capital budget "is of a lower priority" than approval for Muskrat Falls.
The PUB has warned no approval for the line now might very well equal no approval for the line at all in 2012.
The board "anticipates an extremely busy regulatory calendar in 2012" and the time required for reviewing "such a large expenditure" - what the PUB calls "the largest single expenditure that Hydro has proposed since becoming fully regulated in 1996" - is significant.
"Therefore, it is likely that, depending on the timing of the filing of the application, approval in 2012 may not be possible," the board stated.
Meanwhile, on the $6.2-billion Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project, the board was supposed to submit a report on that project by Dec. 31, but were unable to meet the deadline, due to a delay in key documentation from Nalcor.
The PUB stated, as early as late October, a delay should be expected in that report.
On Wednesday, Natural Resources Minister Jerome Kennedy said the board is expected to have it completed March 31.
"Extensive work has been completed, and the extension will allow the PUB to fulfil their work as laid out in the terms of reference," he stated.
In a final scheduling snag of late, Nalcor and Nova Scotia private utility Emera were supposed to finalize a deal on the Muskrat Falls development by Nov. 30, but that deadline has been extended to Jan. 31.