Provincial government calls for power system consultant

Ashley Fitzpatrick
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Provincial review waste of time, money, Liberals say

Calling all consultants: the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador wants to hear from companies interested in completing a third-party review of the province’s electrical system, including its regulation and oversight.

As promised on Jan. 9 by then-premier Kathy Dunderdale — in the wake of a week of rolling blackouts and unplanned power outages on the island — the Progressive Conservative government will complete a review of the power system.

It is, in part, an attempt to help restore public confidence, but is also to address any required changes as Newfoundland is linked to the mainland and the massive, $7.7-billion Lower Churchill power project comes online.

It begins with the call for consultants issued Monday afternoon. The cost and timeline are as-yet undefined.

“To be clear to the people of the province, and I have said this many times, this is not a distraction to the Public Utilities Board (PUB). We support their work. In fact, we want their work. We are going to integrate that into a new system,” Minister of Natural Resources Derrick Dalley said in the House of Assembly Tuesday, referring to a separate, ongoing review by the utilities regulator.

“We are moving from a (power) system that has served this province for over 50 years. We will move to a system to connect with the North American grid, from an isolated to an interconnected, the last jurisdiction in the country to do so. With that there will be new challenges, whether it is governance, legislation, regulation, operations, performance, the roles and responsibilities of the stakeholders and how that will work in terms of best practices, as well as what is happening in other jurisdictions and models.”

However, Liberal Leader Dwight Ball called the province’s review reactionary, unnecessary and a waste of public money.

“To me, it’s get out of the way, let the Public Utilities Board do their work. They’re doing a review of pre-Muskrat Falls, post-Muskrat Falls (in-service) electrical system within the province,” he told reporters, after raising the province’s consultant call in question period.

Asked if there was a possibility the existing review processes or the actions of the PUB may have played a role in the recent power woes, Ball said that will be addressed in the PUB’s own review.

“Because it’s an open process. It’s webcasted. It’s out there for all of us to review and anybody that actually appears before the PUB, as members of the public, we will know,” he said.

He also highlighted the fact the province’s call for a consultant does not provide for any public consultations.

That issue was similarly taken up with The Telegram by PUB review intervener Danny Dumaresque.

“The problem we’ve got right now is the request for proposals that’s put out is saying the public is not going to have a say,” he said.

Dalley committed to making public any reports from the  consultant hired by the province.

The discussion around changes, he said, will have to be taken from there.

“I’m not saying there won’t be any changes made, but if we’re going to make a fundamental shift in how we do business and how we manage and operate, and certainly a fundamental shift in the role of any utilities stakeholders, if that warrants public consultations, we’re certainly prepared to do that,” he said.

The request for proposals from companies interested in the province’s power system review closes May 5 at 4 p.m. NT.

Organizations: Public Utilities Board, North American, The Telegram

Geographic location: Newfoundland

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Recent comments

  • Tony Rockel
    April 09, 2014 - 08:00

    Dally, like the rest of his colleagues, is once again dallying in order to delay any meaningful evaluation of this government's reckless and headlong plunge into the Muskrat Morass.

  • Maurice E. Adams
    April 09, 2014 - 07:07

    Building the Muskrat Falls generation plant is a case of putting the cart before the horse --- "...governance, legislation, regulation, operations, performance, the roles and responsibilities of the stakeholders and how that will work in terms of best practices, as well as what is happening in other jurisdictions and models.”.... Shouldn't all of that have taken place BEFORE the decision to build Muskrat?... Even now, such a process should allow for putting the building of an unneeded dam on hold. If not, then the consultant's hands are again being tied.