Utilities regulator misses own deadline
Thursday was the deadline, the date set and published by the Board of Commissioners of Public Utilities (PUB) as the day it would finally have a say on the so-called DarkNL power outages of Jan. 2-8.
The PUB was to produce a report, providing to the public its understanding of the state of the province’s power system.
The document was also expected to include indication of any orders being made by the power utilities to get ready for the demands of next winter.
The day went by without a news conference or public statement by the PUB.
There was nothing posted to the PUB’s website and no explanation as to why the hours ticked by with nothing published.
At 4:30 p.m., The Telegram called the office of the chairman and CEO of the PUB.
“Mr. Wells is in a meeting,” his secretary said.
At 5 p.m., another call was made to the same number. This time, the line cut off.
Two minutes later, a “courtesy call” was received from the board’s secretary, who could not say when the report might be available.
She said she was not in a position to take questions.
There was no concern expressed on social media in the meantime, no calls to the newsroom demanding explanation — all suggesting a growing fatigue with the discussion about the capabilities of the power system.
Danny Dumaresque, an often minute-to-minute, vocal intervener in the PUB power review to date, was tied up in nomination proceedings as he seeks a Liberal political seat. He said he would get a look at the power report later and maybe comment early next week.
Others normally commenting on the major milestones in determining the path forward for provincial power, and the cost of those plans to individuals, had nothing to comment on.
As reported, Nalcor Energy subsidiary Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro applied to the regulator for unusually swift approval of the purchase of a new $119-million, 60-megawatt backup generator.
The cost is more than all of the major maintenance and construction work, capital budget work, being undertaken by Hydro in the coming year.
The PUB has since approved the purchase.
It will address the costs — specifically whether or not ratepayers will be hit with the full cost — at an unspecified, later date.
So will the generator be received, installed and running in time for winter?
“Yes, current project planning provides for an in service date within December 2014,” stated a response provided Wednesday by a Hydro spokeswoman.
A previous, power-related report for the province came from Liberty Consulting and was published April 24. It was meant to feed the ultimate findings of the PUB.
As of 6:30 p.m. Thursday, the deadline for this story, there was no further information provided from the regulator on its work.
The provincial government, meanwhile, has proceeded with its own, separate power review.
“We have received nine detailed and comprehensive proposals from interested consultants, and we are now in the process of reviewing these proposals through the provincial government’s regular process for procuring consultants. A time frame for this decision has not been set,” a spokeswoman for the Department of Natural Resources stated in response to questions Wednesday.
“Once chosen, the independent consultant will be required to finalize a work plan and schedule for the review.”