Nalcor chief says energy alternates 'not feasible'

James McLeod
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Nalcor CEO Ed Martin speaks during the St. John's Board of Trade luncheon today.

Nalcor CEO Ed Martin gave a speech today to the St. John's Board of Trade, talking in detail about the Muskrat Falls hydro project.

Martin talked in detail about why Nalcor didn't pursue other options for electricity — everything from small scale hydro to nuclear.

Martin talked in special detail about why natural gas and why it isn't a feasible energy option. Natural gas is often touted by critics of the Muskrat Falls plan, but Martin said it's simply "not economically feasible."

Organizations: St. John's Board of Trade

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Recent comments

  • Information Based
    March 01, 2012 - 17:04

    If you're such an expert in "market demand" and/or you're holding out on some tidbit of future news, why aren't you working for Nalcor? Truth is, even if demand falls, it's still worth it to build the plant and idle one or more of the turbines over using any form of fossil-fuel power. I don't disagree that wind, solar and geothermal SHOULD be looked into in addition to this project, as my bet is that demand will be there in the future, or an abundance of available and steadily-priced energy could create the demand and attract more industry. By the way, it isn't "free" power - the project is projected to cost $6.2bn.

    • David
      March 01, 2012 - 20:31

      ....even if demand falls, it's still worth it to build the plant and idle one or more of the turbines.... this is the pure lunacy, the abject foolishness, of a government-coddled, socialist fool withjno more concept of money or its value than a barnyard animal would have. Here's an exercise for you: Google "time value of money". Blow your mind.

    • Information Based
      March 01, 2012 - 22:53

      Blow your mind with how oil costs more in inflation-indexed dollars than at any time except for the peaks in the 70s and late 2008. Oil has outpaced inflation (i.e., "time value of money") for the last century, and it will continue to do so. How, and why, you ask? Here's how: the world's energy consumption currently comprises 1/3 oil and 1/2 coal+natural gas. All other sources combined make up only the remaining 1/6th. As oil and coal and gas get used up, the other sources such as nuclear and hydro and solar, etc. are nowhere near the scale of availability or feasibility to make up the shortfall, so energy prices rise. Here's the "why": decreasing oil, coal, and gas supplies combined with increasing world population and demand make energy simultaneously more scarce and more valuable. Maybe $6.2bn will only buy a loaf of bread in 50 years, but the ability to constantly output over 500MW, or the rough equivalent of five million humans labouring constantly 24/7 without sleep or coffee breaks, will be increasingly valuable no matter what economic system prevails.

    • David
      March 02, 2012 - 14:43 see no issue with taking several billion dollars (most of it debt and none of it your own -- that really does make it simple, doesn't it?!), spending it right now (why delay...details don't matter in Suzukian ideas such as these) and then sit there, waiting for a market to appear annd start drawing and paying for power...however long that takes. With this pure ignorance of the concept of discounted present value, you could have been Danny's right hand man. Hell, you could have been Joey's right hand man. Congratulations. You keep the stereotype of the Newfie fool alive and well.

  • David
    March 01, 2012 - 16:53

    "....It is imbecilic to be opposed to the economics or ethics of this project...." So there you go --- positively Freudian. Self-supplied evidence that "Mr. Information Based" is actually "Mr. Lottery Ticket Optimist, Don't Bother Me with Details", yet another to add to the Nfld. Whoppers Hall of Fame....from Come-by- Chance to cucumbers to all those ACOA cash bonfires. We're down 45 runs, there's two outs in the bottom of the ninth, nobody on base....might as well swing for the fence again, why change strategy now?

    • Information Based
      March 01, 2012 - 21:46

      Hmm... I don't think you could've read my post AND responded AND had it accepted and submitted in 31 seconds unless either (1) a legion of monkeys on typewriters randomly assembled it, or (2) somehow The Western Star thought fit to hire you in some capacity and you think it appropriate to read and ponder my posts for over an hour before publishing them with your immediate random gibberish response. Look up "Freudian" some time so you can begin using it in less embarrassing ways, and why not try furnishing even one of the details you seem to think are missing from my arguments, but which you have curiously omitted yourself. Good day to you.

    • David
      March 02, 2012 - 11:59

      IB: rebuttal other than insults? C'mon, dude....concentrate. (FYI, the time stamps on the posts aren't real time...they're obviously delayed and batch processed. In any case, given the bizarre tangent you pursued, I suggest you get checked by your doctor for ADD.

  • Abu Simbal
    February 29, 2012 - 12:48

    Well David, I suppose its back to the fishing boats and living little dreams for you and many others. Those who refuse to learn the lessons of history are doomed to repeat them but those who are stuck in the past are simply lost.

    • David
      February 29, 2012 - 16:07

      Newsflash Abu: 'Fishing boats', as you so sarcastically ridicule, was the one thing ...the ONE thing ...that we had here that no one else had. It could have sustained us and provided protein to the world forever, and we would have had a permanent competitive advantage over anyone else on Earth...forever. So ridicule that, and cheer your 'dam to nowhere'. I find your pompous, dismissive, eltist attitude towards something as viable, sustainable, healthy and honest as fishing to be nothing short of disgusting. If your kind represent the 'new Newfoundland', we're not better off than the 'little dreams' at all.

    • Abu Simbal
      March 01, 2012 - 06:48

      Well appears that rhetoric is not your strong point but the ability to have monochromatic dreams and to formulate non-sequitor conclusions is ample compensation.

    • David
      March 01, 2012 - 11:29

      A 'collegey' personal atttack...childish, not a word on topic, but with a hint of education. This board is really looking up.

  • Information Based
    February 29, 2012 - 12:24

    It is imbecilic to be opposed to the economics or ethics of this project when it will produce, IN PERPETUITY (or some reasonable facsimile, with a little maintenance), the energy equivalent of about 8,000 barrels of oil PER DAY, which is worth well over $800,000 PER DAY at CURRENT crude prices. Long after Hibernia and Whiterose AND Hebron have run dry, this little tortoise will still be running the race, pumping out energy for the province (with zero emissions, no less).

    • David
      February 29, 2012 - 16:30

      You seem to have confused this with a (very fictional) 'perpetual energy machine'. No wonder you think this debate is so your "mind" (for lack of a better word) economics don't matter, no amount of money could not possibly be a deterrent, feasibility studies are just a pointless waste of time....after all, it's free power forever!? And a sweeping generality like "global power demand is ever-growing" covers the entire market demand analysis, right? And we need to simply defer to the unbiased, untainted expertise of Nalcor, a bunch of political stooges without any more project management experience than ordering donurts for Friday morning meetings. Sorry. Your opinion on this isn't worth what you're charging.

    • Information Based
      February 29, 2012 - 18:52

      Thank you for confirming my point. No, I didn't confuse this with a perpetual energy machine, I pretty much explicitly called it such, as that is in essence what it is, once completed. The Sun provides all the energy in the form of sunlight which drives the Earth's massive water cycle, of which the Churchill River system is but one tiny part, and of which the Muskrat Falls project will tap a still smaller part. Of course, your knowing that in the first place would have obviated your comment.

    • David
      March 01, 2012 - 11:37

      ....economics don't matter, no amount of money could not possibly be a deterrent, feasibility studies are just a pointless waste of time....after all, it's free power forever!? And a sweeping generality like "global power demand is ever-growing" covers the entire market demand analysis, right?..... Overlooked this annoying little part, did you? Don't worry ---- Nalcor did too.

  • Jack
    February 28, 2012 - 20:22

    I wonder why Nalcor has not considered another good alternative as opposed to Muskrat Falls? Wind Power? The Northern Peninsula and Wreckhouse areas are a great place to harvest wind power as they get consistent windy conditions year round. Besides, if Nova Scotians can benefit from wind energy, notice the numerous wind turbines in Lingan when you take the ferry to North Sydney as a good example, so can Newfoundland and Labrador.

    • JW
      February 29, 2012 - 18:47

      That's what I keep wondering about too.

  • fred
    February 28, 2012 - 19:24

    Those who fail to learn from history.......... muskrat falls smells like the churchill falls fiasco all over again. too much risk for too little gain

    • Information Based
      February 29, 2012 - 13:20

      Say what? If any oil company in the world had word of a well that put out a steady 8,000bpd in perpetuity and it would only cost $6.2bn up front, they would be lining up at the trough with their chequebooks. What's more, apart from Joey's terrible contract negotiating skills, the Upper Churchill Falls will be a goldmine for the province when it is "repatriated" in 2041. The Upper Churchill puts out, ON AVERAGE, the energy equivalent of 56,000 barrels of oil per day, which is worth about $6,000,000 per DAY at CURRENT prices, emissions-free. That's wholesale price, by the way. As oil & gas run out, energy prices are guaranteed to rise, and this resource we have will only become more valuable. They can't build this project soon enough, and future generations will look back on the coming decade as the time when Newfoundland & Labrador became the first province in Canada to have it's entire electricity grid self-sufficient and emissions-free.

  • John Smith
    February 28, 2012 - 18:00

    Of course anyone with half a clue knows why Muskrat falls is the best option. However I will say to the naysayers...prove to me how gas will be cheaper in the long run. You cannot, as it is not possible. This is the lowest cost option, as MHI, Navigant, and Wade Locke have said. Only a fool would think that gas id the answer, when you have hudreds of years of power available with the dam.

  • David
    February 28, 2012 - 13:27

    Interesting word.....feasible. Nalcor would rather put it's entire corporate expertise behind a project so complex and technically challenging, with its eventual profitability so entirely exposed to the vagueries of actual future power demand and ever-sensitive market dynamics, that a sound, reliable assessment of its actual "feasibility" is decidedly impossible. Given the enormous financial commitment to be made, I would think this fact alone would justify immmensely more caution, not less. I wonder how much genuine effort they even put into analyzing other options, options that would be immensely easier to pin down very precisely. But this is Newfoundland...always swing for the fences. It has served us so well.

    • Rob
      February 28, 2012 - 16:19

      Lowest priced natural gas forward market in 10 years. Much lower capital cost to build a couple of 300 MW natural-gas fired simple cycle power generation facilities to supply NL and replace Holyrood Bunker C nightmare. Besdies where's the market for the other 2,000 + MWs of Muskrat? New York...Do you they have any load contracts yet to support this? Cheaper, less environmental impact (to Labrador), no need for billions in risky capital spending with massive interest and underwater cables to an unknown market that might be served cheaper by competitors. Then what?

    • Abu Simbal
      February 28, 2012 - 17:49

      They are building a dam and a transmission line...its been done many times before....even by Newfoundlanders! Also, why do you think due diligence and caution have been sacrificed? This project has been studied extensively for over 30 years....fairly certain it been fleshed out.

    • David
      February 29, 2012 - 11:48're new here aren't you? Apparently, you seem to think that the ability to actually "build" these things is being debated. I recommend you read the history of this island, it's politics, it's impressivley long littany of politically-tainted, financially ruinous, mega-project dreams. Oh, they all got built...every one of them. They just all costed enormously more than advertised, and none of them came even close to providing the economic payback promised. In many cases, the only sign that each one of them ever existed is as a fraction of the total debt number on the provincial balance sheet, which we are still paying interest on today, and for the foreseeable future. A betting man would say we're due for a break.....a smart man would walk away from the craps table and sober up.

    • Information Based
      February 29, 2012 - 12:57

      There are no vagaries to future power demand unless WWIII occurs and we all go back to living in caves. Energy is about as safe a long-term bet as you can get if you're going to try to talk "market dynamics", and hydro is about as safe as it gets in the energy sector. Fossil fuels WILL run out. Hydro WON'T in any human timeframe. "options that would be immensely easier to pin down very precisely"??? What is your meaning here? The other options are fossil-fuel-burning plants, solar, geothermal, wind, tide, biomass. None provide the combination of availability, scale, efficiency, low emissions, long-term cost, and proven engineering that the Lower Churchill does. It's quite disingenuous to say there's any notion of this project being a gamble when the only barrier is the initial cost.

    • David
      February 29, 2012 - 16:16

      Information Based: I recall in the early 70's hearing a guy named Smallwood also laugh how the need for refined oil was such a sure-thing certainty that the idea of building a refinery at Come By Chance was simply a risk of failure....guaranteed. I'll bet this all comes as quite a shock to a youngster like you. Look it up.

    • Information Based
      March 01, 2012 - 17:22

      Oil is a non-renewable resource. Hydro is a renewable resource. The Come-By-Chance refinery has about as much to do with Muskrat Falls as your age has to do with the Sprung greenhouse. Joey's terrible contract-negotiation skills aside, your implication that his forecast of the need for refined oil being askew is belied by the fact that the Come-By-Chance refinery is running at full capacity, and has been for years, even if for a different owner.