PUB extension request denied

Barb Sweet
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Province needs Muskrat Falls report for spring sitting

Natural Resources Minister Jerome Kennedy won’t extend the Public Utilities Board’s deadline on the proposed Muskrat Falls review because he wants it in the House of Assembly for the spring sitting.

“We need the report March 31. The premier has clearly indicated she wants the opportunity for debate in the House of Assembly,” Kennedy told The Telegram Wednesday.

He said there was no opportunity to debate the Upper Churchill deal in the House of Assembly in the 1960s, as the deal was negotiated under the gun with Quebec having the upper hand.

When Public Utilities Board chairman Andy Wells wrote Kennedy to ask to extend the deadline on the review of the hydroelectric development, he said it can’t properly be done sooner due to untimely filings by Nalcor.

“Unfortunately, I must advise that it is not possible for this review to be completed any earlier than the end of June 2012,” Wells said in the letter.

Kennedy said because of the points made by Wells, government has had a frank discussion with Nalcor and a direction has been given to file information faster so the PUB can do its job within the March 31 timeframe.

He noted the PUB has engaged Manitoba Hydro International to do an independent consultant’s report to be completed by late January and will be key in helping the PUB file its report.

Kennedy had already extended the deadline from Dec. 31 to  March 31.

But Wells says that’s simply not enough time.

“The full and fair participation of the consumer advocate as well as the public hearing required by Sect. 5 of the Electrical Power Control Act … will dictate the schedule until late spring and it is only then that the board can begin to write its report,” Wells wrote.

“As you note in your letter, this matter is of fundamental importance to the province. Given the magnitude of the capital costs, the complex technical nature of the information to be considered, and the significance of the matter for the island interconnected electrical system and the province in general, the board must ensure a full and comprehensive review with full opportunity to the consumer advocate and other interested persons to participate.”

The review began in June, but Nalcor is still filing significant information, Wells said in his letter.

“This new information is now being reviewed and assessed and additional requests for information will be issued so that Manitoba Hydro International Ltd. can finalize its report and we can begin the public consultation process,” he wrote.

The PUB asked consumer advocate Tom Johnson for his input and Johnson responded to the board that he’s still waiting for replies from Nalcor.

“This is all to underline the point that the consumer advocate, in light of the very recent filings and the filings yet to be made and hopefully disclosed by way of certain critical confidential exhibits, is quite concerned that there be reasonable timelines established that afford to the consumer advocate and his consultants an appropriate amount of time to receive and conclude a review of the evidence, ask appropriate questions, receive and review the responses (hopefully responses that are responsive to the question) and prepare a report,” Johnson wrote, adding the board’s assertion June is the earliest possible timeline is realistic.

Johnson told The Telegram he just wants a process that’s workable and is waiting to see what the timeline will look like with the March 31 deadline. But he said there may have to be compromises and part of the process taken off the table.

“You can’t do everything you would be able to do if you had another three months,” Johnson said.

“By definition, we’ve got to take a hard look at the extension date to March 31, how that impacts on the ground, what processes can be done.

“It’s a big, complicated piece of work. It has not been possible as of yet for a sensible schedule to be set down.”

Kennedy said there may be a misunderstanding about the consumer advocate’s role, and he intends to clarify it.

“The role of the consumer advocate is to ensure the interest of ratepayers are looked after and concerns are brought to the attention of the PUB,” he said.

“It’s not my understanding the role of the consumer advocate is to conduct a separate inquiry or to embark upon a joint venture with the PUB.”

Wells could not be reached for comment.

Organizations: Public Utilities Board, Hydro International, Manitoba Hydro International

Geographic location: Quebec, Manitoba

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Recent comments

  • Maurice E. Adams
    December 22, 2011 - 14:14

    FRED: If total lost energy equivalent for just 1 quarter of this year was 410 GWh, and that spillage occurred when year to date inflows into the reservoirs were "near normal" and were at 99.8%, if there is a need to spill 410 GWh of energy when inflows are near normal, then how can "spillage" be a "rare event"? See quote below from PUB quarterly report: "4.1.2 System Hydrology Reservoir storage levels continue to be high. Inflows into the aggregate reservoir system were 97.1% of average during the second quarter of 2011 and are now near normal, at 99.8% of average for the year to date. Reservoir levels at the end of the quarter were at 100% of the maximum operating level (MOL). There was significant spillage experienced at multiple reservoirs during the second quarter. In total there was a lost energy equivalent of 410 GWh. "

  • Mark
    December 22, 2011 - 13:45

    ''The premier has clearly indicated she wants the opportunity for debate in the House of Assembly,” Kennedy must be kidding. If that were even remotely true, the House would be sitting.

  • Maurice E. Adams
    December 22, 2011 - 13:25

    FACT: On the one hand, Nalcor's Final Submission to the PUB says we need Muskrat falls because when Vale's Long Harbour plant comes on stream it will cause Holyrood to use an addition 1 million barrels of oil a year --- at tremendous cost. +++++ While on the other hand, in Nalcor's reply to a question from the Consumer Advocate, Nalcor says ---- "With the reduction in load due to the shutdown of the Grand Falls paper mill in 2009, it is expected that NLH will be spilling water every year for the next several years. This will continue until load increases sufficiently, as expected when Vale comes in-service." +++ So in Nalcor's reply to the Consumer Advocate, Nalcor is saying that Vale's demand will be covered off by the energy equivalent water spillage. ++++++ SO WHICH IS IT. They can't have it both ways. Either the water spillage energy equivalent will be available for other demand purposes if Holyrood is used for Vale, of if the water spillage energy equivalent is used instead of Holyrood, then there will no additional oil usage at Holyrood.!!!!!!! THERE IS A WHOLE LOT OF SPINNING GOING ON WITH THIS PROJECT. Either the energy equivalent from water spillage will supply Vale's demand, or Holyrood will supply Vale's demand --- NALCOR CAN'T HAVE IT BOTH WAYS.

    • Fred Penner
      December 22, 2011 - 14:59

      Once again, spill is not an annual event and is not the norm for Nalcor. The reason spill is indicated in the report which you vaguely reference is that in order to satisfy the stability requirements of the system Holyrood is required to be online. The comment is intended to explain why generation is required on the Avalon in order to meet the load requirements of the Avalon. You have taken the wording out of context.

  • Eli
    December 22, 2011 - 12:53

    Come on guys, get over the pettiness. Kennedy says the Churchill contract was consumated under the gun of Hydro Quebec. (I think they've been teaching that in kindergarden for the last 10 years Jerome). But it's ok for Muskrat to be under the gun with the majority PC's finger on the trigger? Perhaps he was taken out of context like his cowardly backdown following the Hughes inquiry. The deal calls for a PUB review and Nalcor is tardy and apparently reluctant to provide crucial details. Wells and the PUB should damn well stick to their guns!

  • John Smith
    December 22, 2011 - 12:30

    Maurice why do you insist on making up lies? I read the nalcor submission, and nowhere did I see talk of sustained energy use decline. They talk about a year over year increase in power needs. As well the low end for power at Vale is 90 megawatts. Duff's cannot run at 100 % power output, it is not designed to do so, as well the amount of oil burned if it did would be huge. What happens if we have a dry spell as we did a few years back, and the water is not there? Your arguments are either fictitious, or wrong or both. keep burning bunker C in holyrood, or comnnect to the grid, and have access to unlimited power to styabalize rates, and grow our economy? You are so very wrong Maurice.

  • Cyril Rogers
    December 22, 2011 - 12:09

    Mr. Wells may be arrogant but he is right to seek the necessary information that will allow the PUB to complete an accurate report. The fact that NALCOR is unable to provide timely information to the PUB should be a huge red flag. This was a hastily-done deal from the beginning and nothing they have come up with so far is able to justify the MF project. Therefore, it is only logical to conclude that the whole project was suspect to start with and their inability to file timely information suggests they are making it up as they go. If this project was so badly needed they would have had the information readily available. FOr those of you who are attacking Mr Wells for doing his job, even if he was appointed by the former Premier Danny Williams, should be yet another sign of this project not having been well-conceived. We have been hoodwinked by these people and they continue to throw bafflegab at us, yet the blind supporters can't see the problem. The Upper Churchill was a very poor deal for us and this will be just as bad in the long run. As for Mr. Kennedy, why is he in such a hurry to have it ready for the HOA since they don't intend to do more than debate it anyway. I suspect they will provide no real information and will simply put up a smokescreen. Why not let all members vote on it and be held accountable when it proves to be a disaster. After all, if is SO good, they will surely vote openly and proudly for it. Won't they???

  • Maurice E. Adams
    December 22, 2011 - 11:51

    FACT: From Nalcor's Final Submission to the PUB, our total energy use was down again in 2010 and now well below our 1989 demand (both residential and industrial demand were both down again in 2010). We have had a 15% decrease over the last 6-7 years, a zero demand (actually a slightly negative growth) over the last 21 years. Nalcor itself says there is NO forecast demand increase for its industrial users past 2015. Vale (at peak) will need 730 GWh while our total usage has gone down about 1,200 GWh since 2004. Not only that but the PUB quarterly reports say that Nalor 'spilled' the water energy equivalent of 694 GWh from the island's reservoirs this summer/fall alone (that equals Vale's peak demand). Or put another way, it is 10 times the 0.8% increase in demand that even Nalcor forecasts --- and if I recall correctly, that amount of spillage is not far from average. Now what if we spent just a fraction of the Billions needed for Muskrat to expand our on island storage? We only use Holyrood to supply about 13 % of our energy needs (down to about 10% last year , about 850 GWh). And as for Holyrood working flat out during those cold winter nights, a review of Nalcor's data shows that for the last 8 years on average for the months of Jan, Feb and March we needed Holyrood to operate at only 50% capacity (not 'flat out'), and over the last 6 years, that is now down to 44% capacity. The water spillage alone is sufficient to cover off Vale's needs. I could go on and on. But it is too much to put in one commentary.

    • Fred Penner
      December 22, 2011 - 13:20

      The spillage of water is not an annual is, in fact, a rarity. There is no such thing as an "average spill".

  • Brian
    December 22, 2011 - 10:52

    Wells, Johnson, Ed Martin at Nalcor - all Tory appointees. Appoint people who can get the job done in future.

  • John Smith
    December 22, 2011 - 10:25

    So Wade locke, Navigant, the Federal gov. the prov. gov, and the experts at both Emera and Nalcor must all be wrong, or on the take, or part of a big conspiracy? Is that what the few naysayers would have us believe? I find it endlessly amusing that the Liberal know nothings, and naysayers are quick to say" sum bad deal b'ye"...yet they can never point out what it is that makes it bad. There are two facts that must...must be adressed...1) we do need more electricity...absolutey an undeniable fact...2) this hydro project is the best way for us to access power...again, an undeniable fact. Maurice often cites excess capacity in the system, which at times is true. However the experts are concerned with having power available in the winter, not the summer. As well the 90 megawatts for Vale, and more for the bull arm facility. There are 3 12 story buildings under construction downtown as we speak and many more on the way. Nalcor has never once said in any document that our needs are decreasing...never. Our cost for electricity has gone up by 60 % since 1998!!! Fact. Time to get on with this project. We need the power, and we need to stabalize these rates which are climbing higher every year.

  • roy
    December 22, 2011 - 09:39

    What do expect from anything Andy Wells is involved in, he was the same while mayor, disruptive and arragant. But then again it was the best show on television in the comody line. Looks like he misses the attention and spotlight. Looks like nothing can be done on time even when given extensions, Maybe its time to give all these jobs to companies outside the province. Yvonne Jones will say it was rushed if done on time, if not done on time its flawed . The liberals can not be pleased no mater how it turns out especiall Yvonne.

    • Hydrologist Education and job requirement
      December 23, 2011 - 05:44

      good view has been shared by you. I am impressed with insight knowledge.

  • Randall Stevens
    December 22, 2011 - 09:05

    The PUB has another three friggin' months to get this report ready. Just how much time do they need? Wait, I know! Treat it as a high school project and automatically get an extension. Deadlines, schmedlines!

  • jim
    December 22, 2011 - 07:13

    Andy is in it for himself. You can't represent both the consumer and the big company Nalcor all at the one time. Time for Andy Whitewash Wells to go.

    • Eli
      December 22, 2011 - 15:39

      JIM..I hope Andy flushes your john.