Forum speakers call for energy diversification

Ashley Fitzpatrick
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Documentary filmmaker and small-scale renewable energy project proponent Neil Livingston flew in from Nova Scotia to participate in a forum on renewable energy alternatives held in at St. John’s City Hall on Friday. The forum, with speakers promoting wind and solar options, was hosted by the Sierra Club of Canada and the Newfoundland and Labrador Environmental Network. — Photo by Ashley Fitzpatrick/The Telegram

The potential for wind and solar power development in Newfoundland and Labrador became the focus of a forum on renewable energy opportunities, held Friday morning in St. John’s.

The forum was hosted by the Sierra Club of Canada and the Newfoundland and Labrador Environmental Network. It included a panel of three speakers: Fred Winsor of the Sierra Club of Canada; Gerry Skinner, owner of Newfound Energies and Neal Livingston, a documentary filmmaker and small-scale renewable energy developer based in Nova Scotia.

About 25 people attended, many posing questions to one or more of the panelists. Others submitted questions online, prompting further discussion during the approximately two-hour event.

Livingston noted he and about 20 friends have solar panels from a company based in Newfoundland and Labrador for their homes. He promoted energy alternatives — from single solar panels to more ambitious small-scale hydro — as a means of both creating employment in the energy sector and decreasing greenhouse gas emissions.

He suggested the move from provincial energy megaprojects to small-scale projects, tapping many sources, is comparable to the introduction of something like the telephone. It may seem unusual at first, but can lead to a societal change, he said.

“Who owns it is an important part of the discussion when you’re transitioning to renewables,” Livingston said, denouncing megaprojects, including the Lower Churchill development.

The point of varied ownership was similarly raised by Skinner, who is involved in a wind turbine project proposed for Kenmount Road in St. John’s and who, as The Telegram has reported, recently returned from China with an $18-million contract for his company to supply 1,200 wind towers — at a cost of $15,000 each — to Wipo, an international wind power company.

“It could never be said before that you could actually own your own utility power,” Skinner said.

He said, in his opinion, wind power projects are being welcomed in the province. Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro, he said, has offered to purchase excess power from the Kenmount Road wind turbine project.

Winsor, meanwhile, spoke about incentives for alternative energy developments and what feed-in tariff legislation might do for development of options like wind energy.

“In a place like Newfoundland and Labrador, I could see it as being quite revolutionary,” he said, pointing to Germany as an example where legislative changes have prompted development.

Audience member Jim Feehan challenged the comparisons to other countries and other Canadian jurisdictions. “Germany is great. But, correct me if I’m wrong, electricity rates in Germany are much higher than they are here,” he said.

He later explained for The Telegram he wanted to prompt a discussion of cost and reliability — the main points for everyday customers.

“I like the idea of wind, but people here need to be convinced,” he said.

For their part, the provincial government and Nalcor have said development of the Lower Churchill is top priority, with the island link allowing for greater development of larger wind power projects and other energy options.

Meanwhile, it was announced Friday Hatch Ltd. has been awarded a $158,000 contract for work on Phase 2 of its “Energy Innovation Roadmap.”  

The first phase — with a

report released July 2011 ( — gathered responses to some basic questions around feasibility for a long list of alternative energy options.

Minister of Natural Resources Jerome Kennedy stated the roadmap will, “identify potential opportunities for further development, expansion, and diversification” in the provincial energy sector.

Organizations: Sierra Club of Canada, Newfoundland and Labrador Environmental Network, Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro Hatch Energy Innovation

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, Kenmount Road, Germany China

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Recent comments

  • newffie
    May 19, 2012 - 11:59

    wind mills would be the best for the nfld people if they own there own wind mill if they don`t own there own wind mill ,they will loose

  • Harold
    May 19, 2012 - 11:29

    well said sue. now,, will anyone in authority listen?? PLEASE don't leave my kids and grandkids another upper churchill.

  • Mountain Man
    May 19, 2012 - 10:28

    Living off the grid means having to count watts like dieters count calories. I know, I've been there.

  • Winston Adams
    May 19, 2012 - 10:19

    Here is my cost per month for electric heat for 800 sq ft house, with the temperature always at the range of 21 to 23 C. Dec 40.00, Jan 45.00,Feb 39.00, Mar 30.00, Apr 19.00. Total for these 5 months 173.00 ,about 180.00 with the 4 percent Hst added. Here is how I acheived this. First I upgraded the 25 year house with good windows , some extra insulation and air tightness. Then I installled a all electric minisplit , inverter type heatpump that can operate down to minus 18 C, so it requires no backup electric heaters . But instead of installing the outdoor component outdoors, I installed it in the attic. There it benefits from the the solar absorption of the black shingles to give it even better efficiency, prevents malfunction at low temperatures, and prevents corrosion from our salt air environment. Full year heating should be not more than 250.00 For a house of 1200 sq ft with 1200 sq ft basement built to good standards, this would be about 625.00 per year( bigger houses need a bit less heat per sq ft). This approach is much more cost effective then regular solar or wind generators. Although wind generators can be very useful to supplement our hydro. But heatpumps of this type are so effecient it can reduce our total demand by more than 50 percent. Other jurisdictions are spending a lot of money for good , effective energy efficient programs. We are spending very little in comparison.And too much on frivolus, ineffective ways.

  • Sue Kelland-Dyer
    May 19, 2012 - 07:11

    Okay - so now we have a group interested in their own little bit of privatization of supply and grid. We have not yet dealt with a reasonable energy plan. The deal is this - energy is necessary - if we privatize it - you and I will continue to pay for it forever. If it is owned by us - we get the benefit of paying it off and controlling rates. Have a forum on nationalizing Newfoundland Power. This is our resource and it is a fundamental of day to day living. It is amazing the greed both corporate and personal when you get to own a river or wind. If we start the nonesense above - then each and every Newfoundland and Labrador family should own a river or be given windmills to generate power. Then we can completely mess up our grid and with no incoming dollars Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro will be unable to complete satisfactory maintenance. Newfoundland and Labrador had this debate 20 years ago and we said NO. What we need now is somebody with a vision for the public development of our energy resources. That is to say we don't soend 6 to 8 billion dollars to create 50 jobs - increase of power rates - and subsidize other provinces.