Nalcor staff questioned on status of Muskrat Falls development

Ashley Fitzpatrick
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Nalcor vice-president Gilbert Bennett

A panel of Nalcor Energy staff, leaders on the proposed Muskrat Falls hydroelectric megaproject, remained in the hot seat Tuesday — the second day for the Board of Commissioners of Public Utilities

(PUB) public hearings on the project in St. John’s.

The day opened with final questions from Consumer Advocate Thomas Johnson, who ended his time by saying he would collect the questions he has received from the public and compile them for the record.

PUB counsel Maureen Greene then took over.

Calling for expressions of interest

Greene asked about the current status of project work, noting Nalcor has been issuing calls for “expressions of interest,” though the PUB review is not yet complete and the project is not sanctioned by government.

“A decision has not been made to award those packages, those tenders,” Nalcor vice-president Gilbert Bennett said.

Bennett explained seeking expressions of interest helps with required cost assessments and timelines, in addition to being standard practice in a project the size of the $6.2-billion Muskrat Falls development.

Funding for construction costs is expected to flow only with project sanction.

Paul Harrington, project director for the Lower Churchill Project, said the project team is hoping to have a collection of completed steps and fresh project information available by mid-June to, in part, feed the ultimate decision by government.

An updated risk assessment is in the works, as is an updated load forecast.

Some items are ongoing, but have progressed since Nalcor first moved the project forward into the review process, according to Harrington.

Aboriginal consultation would be an example. “It’s degrees of readiness. It’s not necessarily on or off,” he said.

Later in the day, Greene drilled down through a series of questions on the subjects of system reliability, requirements, integration and regulation.

On the prevailing question of the “isolated island” option versus the Muskrat Falls development plan, Greene asked why Nalcor hadn’t considered an “incremental approach” — using small power projects to meet provincial need for the very near future, seeing what happens with the potential in certain alternatives, the price of oil and other key factors.

In other words, using small builds to “buy time.”

Bennett responded, “I guess the question is, buying time for what?”

He echoed previous statements by Nalcor Energy CEO Ed Martin, saying not making a decision on the way forward will lead down the path toward an isolated island option for the province — whether it is chosen or not. “We will remain isolated,” he said.

Bennett pointed to the cost of the project in today’s dollars, the cost of fuel and the potential for carbon costs to be issued, affecting the price of power from Holyrood, saying Nalcor’s staff “think this is a good answer.”

Organizations: Nalcor Energy, Board of Commissioners of Public Utilities

Geographic location: Muskrat Falls, Holyrood

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Recent comments

  • Henry Jefford
    February 19, 2012 - 18:39

    Holyrood oil fired generator is ranked as one of the top ten dirty air or enviorment poluters in Canada, This oil fired generator is consuming thousands of gallons of oil per day,as the cost of oil goes up so does the cost of power. There is talk of using natural gas let that alone for future transportation use The Muskrat falls when built will supply a reliable consistent and cheapest source of power,There is no cheaper, reliable or cleaner source of power in the world than water running over a rock, The power will be there as the saying goes, " For as long as water runs and grass grows"

  • DeeplyConcerned
    February 19, 2012 - 16:27

    Well when the Lab mines (4) get their hands on 80% of this power paid for by taxpayers - their shareholders will make hundreds of millions if not billions. They're the ones behind this, many ex-politicians and cronies. What's there not to understand? Nfld does not need this power. Labrador mines do and mostly their shareholders. Nfld does not use 1/2 of the power at Holyrood now. Money making RACKET on the backs of taxpayers. God knows how many bribes are incuded - as always in NL historically over our resources - taken away or stolen Should be stopped for once and for all. Rediculous scam. Amen

  • SeriouslyConcerned
    February 16, 2012 - 00:22

    What a Scam by Nalcor and politicians! To try and rush this through and not answer questions properly. Very misleading answers. Expressions of Interest should not be allowed at this time until hearings are complete. Appears there are a lot of mouths watering over all the money that will be made while on the backs of taxpayers. A huge transfer of funds is about to take place from the lower and middle class to the upper crust. This is a serious Social Control issue and an abuse of powers issue, if not corruption.

    • Abu Simbal
      February 16, 2012 - 08:54

      The fact that you do not understand the answers does not make them misleading.

  • John Smith
    February 15, 2012 - 11:36

    The information is out there. The minister has stated again and again that it will mean a 15 dollar a month average increase on our bills. The project will not be subsidizing any electricity. We are trading off a percentage that we will not be able to use in exchange for a 2 billion dollar investment, and the ability to sell power on the spot market for profit. The only way we would be subsidizing is if we had a need for the power ourselves, yet still sold it for less then what we pay for it here. That is not waht is going to happen.

  • Louie
    February 15, 2012 - 11:11

    Why can't we get estimates of the power rate increases which consumers will be expected to pay when this project comes on stream and to what extent consumers will subsidize power rates sold into New England and mainland Canada.

  • John Smith
    February 15, 2012 - 09:14

    She would make a good liberal. That's what they would do. Spend billions on proping up a doomed system, then in the end scrap it and decide that muskrat was the best idea all along.