The Public Utilities Board (PUB) emailed both Newfoundland Power and Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro Monday morning and, looking at available reports and forecasts, asked about the next three days of island power.
The Holyrood Hydro generating plant at dusk Jan. 14. — File photo by Joe Gibbons/The Telegram
Hydro’s daily energy forecasts showed a high demand for power, paired with problems in at least three generators, taking away from the available supply.
Given the numbers and forecasted cold temperatures, a decision was made to ask the public to keep energy use to a minimum, and to conserve power where possible.
Shortly after 2:30 p.m., both utilities issued news releases and familiar calls for energy conservation returned to the Internet and public airwaves.
The detailed directions are the same as those heard in early January, when customers on the island’s interconnected system, the main power grid, suffered through planned blackouts and unplanned outages from Jan. 2-8.
The request of the utilities for the next three days is again for residents to reduce their electric heat by a few degrees if they can.
They are also asked conserve hot water, avoid using clothes dryers, keep lights off in rooms not in use and other measures of similar kind.
“Hydro has 1,575 megawatts (MW) of generation available on its system, and peak loads over the next three days are expected to be between approximately 1,400MW and 1,500MW,” stated the Crown corporation. “Therefore, Hydro is putting its generation contingency plan in place to respond to the unlikely event that Hydro experiences further issues with its generation, it may be difficult to meet peak demand.”
In the coming days, The Telegram will be taking a closer look at the supply and demand numbers.
Difficulty meeting demand means rolling blackouts or, in the case of an unexpected failure, a sudden outage.
Dalley and the details
Hydro has described the call for energy conservation particularly at peak times for energy use — 7-10 a.m. and 4-8 p.m. — as a precautionary measure.
Minister of Natural Resources Derrick Dalley stated the same in comments issued at about 5:15 p.m.
“Although the call for conservation is a preventive measure, the provincial government is monitoring the situation closely,” he said. “We wish to reassure residents that NL Hydro is taking every precaution to ensure the electricity system remains reliable.”
Hydro reported 145 MW of power production was not available to the system as of deadline Monday, due to a collection of issues.
Among the problems, a generator at the Bay d’Espoir hydroelectric power plant was reported to have issue with an excitation transformer, leaving its 75 megawatts of power not available to users.
At the Holyrood thermal generating station, Unit 1 needs a repair on two of 12 “guns” that fire fuel into the generator. The fix is not possible until the entire unit can be taken offline, something not likely to happen during the coming cold snap, all according to Nalcor Energy spokeswoman Dawn Dalley. Nalcor is parent to Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro.
The Holyrood unit can still be used, but at 140 MW as opposed to the typical 175 MW max capacity.
And a fuel valve is needed at a gas turbine at Hardwoods, dropping the power available from there to 25 MW.
Dalley said Hydro has confidence in the level of power generation it now has, but added the many moving parts of the generators and the system as a whole mean there are no guarantees there will not be a problem arising resulting in rolling blackouts.
“We understand that with the events that happened in January, public confidence in the electricity system was shaken,” she said, adding Hydro’s task is to restore confidence.
She said people have developed a better understanding of the power system and a heightened awareness, demanding more direct information and Hydro is responding.
“You don’t want people to get the feeling the system is not working as it should,” she said, reiterating the current conservation requests are precautionary.
At Newfoundland Power, manager of communications Karen McCarthy said the utility was contacted by the PUB Monday morning about the availability of power.
“It’s definitely a change for the Public Utilities Board to have been in touch with us today to make us aware, yes,” McCarthy said, when asked about the flow of information.
Two issues being addressed in the PUB’s ongoing power system review — a response to the January outages — are the availability of power generators for the winter season and options to meet the 2014-2016 system demand.
The findings on those issues are due to be released in a PUB report May 15.
Meanwhile, Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro has indicated new power generators may be added to the island system before the it is connected to the mainland, as power from the $7.7-billion Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project comes online — expected in 2017.
None of the options suggested for supplementary power have yet to be put before the PUB and moved through the regulatory review process.