Nalcor Energy CEO Ed Martin has made no secret of the fact the company failed to make submissions to the Board of Commissioners of Public Utilities (PUB) and Manitoba Hydro International (MHI) on the proposed $6.2-billion Muskrat Falls hydro project as early as all parties had expected.
On Wednesday, The Telegram asked Martin about a letter sent Jan. 31, 2012 to the PUB by MHI, in which managing director of subsidiary operations, Paul Wilson, noted “a number of challenges encountered” in the creation of MHI’s review report on the project.
Wilson stated questions submitted to Nalcor “took anywhere from five to a maximum of 119 days” to receive a response, with 22 days being the average.
He noted Nalcor’s final submission to the PUB was expected in July 2011, but was actually made Nov. 10, 2011, “adding significant delays to the overall review process.”
MHI would not make any further statement on the subject when contacted by The Telegram this week.
However, Nalcor Energy did take questions.
“We’re 100 per cent committed to the process here. That’s never been an issue,” Martin told The Telegram.
“That being said, I think it’s fair to say we had underestimated, particularly in the early days, the volume of work that would be required to answer some of the detailed questions that we were receiving.”
In its own letters to the PUB, Nalcor has stated the same team of individuals had initially been answering questions for the independent reviews of the PUB and MHI, on top of answering questions for the review by Navigant Consulting and answering questions from media.
Responses fell behind.
“We put extra resources on and ended up, as we moved closer to the end of the year, we obviously got caught up,” Martin said.
Meanwhile, one further item was raised in MHI’s Jan. 31 letter.
Nalcor has been using a “gated” process, where it draws together all the information it has before making the decision to proceed to the next phase of the process. The letter stated a number of documents MHI had expected to see at the point of its review were not available.
“For example, at Decision Gate 2 one would normally expect that system integration studies would be complete, that the transmission line design criteria would be prepared as part of the design basis for the transmission line, and that the relevant single line diagrams for the HVdc converter station equipment would be available. These types of documents are required to determine inputs for the base cost estimate,” it stated.
In response, Martin said the points raised have been put to his technical team and he has no intention of dismissing them out of hand.
He committed to more work up front, should it be determined there is work that needs to be done before the next Decision Gate.
Following a debate on the project at VOCM studios in St. John’s Wednesday night, Minister of Natural Resources Jerome Kennedy said more specific cost estimates and financing numbers for the project were expected before they make the “Gate 3” decision, when the government formally sanctions the project and proceeds with construction.