Mulling over Muskrat Falls

Gerry Phelan
Send to a friend

Send this article to a friend.

I’ve thrown a few bricks Kathy Dunderdale’s way, but today, I’ve got to say thanks. She listened to pleas from this writer and others for more information on Musk­rat Falls. We have been inundated with information over the past few weeks. I only wish it had been provided sooner.

I’m not going to stomp on Nalcor or the Tories for spending taxpayers’ money to explain their case. I do, though, have to call into question those self-serving motherhood ads, with that great theme, “the power is in our hands.”

We wanted information, but it comes with a campaign that takes another backhanded slap at those who would oppose the project as anything but true Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.

That’s an unfortunate approach, and another bad piece of advice someone sent the government. The first was the public relations mess they are now trying to clean up.

The premier says, “Never before in the history of our province has a project undergone such scrutiny. And so it should have.”

Still, we can’t escape the tone that belittles those of us who are just looking for answers.

It may be inexperience, but some people at Nalcor and at Confederation Building don’t get it. Every time there’s a hint that things have changed, another salvo defeats the purpose.

We see an apparent kinder, gentler Natural Resources Minister Jerome Kennedy saying debate is good, and then the government opts to discuss Muskrat Falls through a private member’s resolution.

Really? Wouldn’t an administration so confident in its position that this is truly the right thing bend over in contortions to allow independent experts to stand before MHAs and the public and state what to the government is painfully obvious, that Muskrat Falls is the best option?

Perhaps they’d even have someone spell that out in layman’s terms.

Please don’t tell me, as I heard one radio host say, that this is too technical for people to understand, so we shouldn’t have a vote on it.

Heart surgery is technical and delicate; this is a decision that should involve the best available analysis, informed debate and some common sense. I can and will make a judgment on that. I cannot perform heart surgery.

The public relations exercise as the government and Nalcor rolled out the information recently may be classed as a charade by some, but really, we asked for it. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.  I’m old school. I’d rather have too much information than too little. Yes, there is a lot of what might best be termed propaganda, but a wealth of knowledge as well.

I give credit to the government and Nalcor for finally providing me with plenty of material supporting their position. It was not a waste of time or money.

I truly believe Ed Martin and those at Nalcor have our best interests at heart. Public relations aside, they’ve done the best they could do, assessing our needs, coming up with a plan, putting a price tag on it and making a recommendation to the government.

Behind the scenes, there had to be agreements with aboriginal groups and another province, and crystal-ball gazing at a time when the world economy is in, well, a mess.

I’d still love to have independent advice from some agency which isn’t directly working for, or being paid by, Nalcor or a government that has already said this is the way to go. That is unlikely to come now.

I consider myself an average voter. I read the paper, listen to the radio and watch television daily. I’ve pored over the long-awaited and welcome pamphlet on Muskrat Falls and searched out information online. I am closer to taking a position on this project today than I was three weeks ago.

I’m following question period and the answers from the government in the legislature and forming opinions as best I can. I encourage everyone to do the same.

Please don’t be sick of Muskrat Falls. It’s too important an issue to go away.

Gerry Phelan is a journalist and former

broadcaster. He can be reached at

Organizations: Confederation Building

Geographic location: Muskrat Falls

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5

Thanks for voting!

Top of page



Recent comments

  • Ginn
    December 02, 2012 - 08:52

    I really believe that Muskrat is the equivalent of a Regiistred Education Savings Plan (RESP) for our grandchildren and their future generations. Pay now and get the benefits later. In 25 years the price of Muskrat power will be a stablising factor in the province's economic growth and prosperity. The trouble with the legal brethern of the 2041 committee is their obvious partisan allegience and a lack of imagination and realisation that their days of being the "in-crowd" is over.

  • Winston Adams
    November 30, 2012 - 12:58

    Hydro Quebec website shows they are promoting ground source efficient heating for residential. A base fiancial assistance of 4000.00 and upt o 7675.00. Now these systems are say 25 ,000 to install but are the best . they don't show the variable speed mini split as would be best for Nfld. My guess is becuase their winters are colder , and the more expensive units are optimal to reduce their peak demand. Keep in mind their residentail energy cost is 50 percent cheaper than ours, and yet they intend to save customers a bundle on their winter heating with these efficient systems, and improves thier grid performance . Here--- well lets increase power costs 50 percent more and avoid efficient heating lease the people benefit. There is a online items today promoting the unification of Nova Scotia , PEI, and NB. Time we unified with Quebec? Low Power costs, energy efficiency and a host of other benefits as we share common borders and occupation , even sealing. WHO"s In? Oh , and Quebec Hydro website offers grants up to 50 percent of costs to 300,000.00 for technology demonstration that can lower operating costs. I installed a mini split outdoor component in the attic. Improves the yearly performance 10 percent. Now in Quebec this would be considered progress, Here -- no one interested , least of all Nalcor. Ok John, I know what you'll sy --- move to Quebec. But once we unify, I can stay , right?

  • Cyril Rogers
    November 30, 2012 - 12:05

    Some people are so gullible! The government's idea of "independent" is akin to a dictator telling his "subjects" that they live in democracy because they are all forced to vote for him!

  • Winston Adams
    November 30, 2012 - 11:51

    John , guess my 40 year experience and analysis as an electrical engineer don't count -- zero as you say. The number of pages and the cost of the reports is the critieria. What factual or engineering analysis errors did I make John? Now you know that Nalcor and MHI said we had reached saturation in efficiency benefits. Great insight! The load forecast to increase at 1 percent and efficiency can chop it by 30 percent -- thats 30 years growth. MHI headquartes in Winnipeg ---chopped energy use by over 70 percent John. That even more than I used for my analysis. So where is the saturation idea coming from? How about wrong and misleading? Is there no accountabality ? Now even acknowledgement ! And you hide on addressing this point. And wind was just back in Feb a max of 80 Mw and now 177 MW and possible to go to 232 MW . Even 232 Mw is 15 percent--- Hawaii is installing 400 MW, 20 percent or more. Seems some backtracking was done -- some one made a little boo boo and made a few adjustments. These are not minor errors John. Some incompetence or misleading info was put to the PUB , wasn't it. Now rush , rush, rush before more of the public becomes aware of the significance. Knowledge is power. Keep the knowledge confined-- that's your game Johnnie, continue to mislead and promote the expertise of those you cite. You deserve some kind of award John.

    • John Smith
      November 30, 2012 - 15:04

      Well, are right about two things...1) your experience doesn't count....and 2) I deserve an award. Keep up the good work wince....i have to go now and turn up my old inefficient baseboard heaters...LOL

  • Maurice E. Adams
    November 30, 2012 - 11:39

    Shutting down Holyrood has no impact whatsoever on 92% of the province's greenhouse gas emissions (the sectors that are still growing). In fact, $7.4 billion to reduce Holyrood's 8% of the province's total GHG emissions is essentially at the cost of the general public (island ratepayers), while the largest "private sector" emitter (Large Industry, at 42% of the island's total) and the other 50% that goes to make up the unaffected 92% has not been addressed. Some Climate Change Plan ---- a temporary 8% GHG reduction at a $7.4 billion cost to ratepayers, while the growing 92% of emissions (mostly the large industry sector) is all but ignored. Where is industry's contribution? Why did government zero on on ratepayers to pay the cost of modest GHG reductions when the 92% mostly attributable to industry is ignored? (more info at ).

  • Winston Adams
    November 30, 2012 - 11:25

    Saelcove; My piece in Sat paper on efficiency shows Holyrood can be closed in 7 or 8 years without MF, using efficiency, wind ( which can now allow more than previouly estimated) and island hydro. With MF Holyrood can probably be just for back up once MF comes on stream,with some and all units eventually spinnning for voltage support. It is intended to replace and add new thermal gneeration as backup. But some say MF will lack the water necessary in winter to supply a committment to Nova Scotia and offset our thermal . This is an important question, because it implies thermal may still be needed in winter , from the back up plants-- so any lack of certainity on the water supply at MF in winter impacts the amount of oil we may still burn.Some say the water certainity at MF depends on Quebec Hydro cooperation, that there is no legal obligation for them to do so. I am uncertain how serious this is. Nalcor says not a problem, others say we need legal certainty.

  • John Smith
    November 30, 2012 - 11:06

    ...but Gerry...we did have a totally independant analysis....the PUB went out and hired MHI...the darling of the naysayers went out and looked across the country, and chose MHI to do an independant review of the project. They basiclly agreed with Nalcor on all points...except that MHI said that Nalcor are UNDERestimating future power needs. Ed Martin has said publicly that Nalcor did this on purpose, so as to make the deal have to undergo even more rigorous scutiny. So, we did have an independant analysis. As well, Dr. Wade Locke gave his independant...unsolicited independant analysis...and he also came out in favor of the there are two independant looks at the project. How many more do you need? Ten? Twenty? Will this go on forever? The naysayers have come up with....NONE!! Yet no one is pointing a finger at that piece of the issue. While we have Nalcor, Navigant, MHI, Wade Locke, Ziff Energy, and many more diliver studies and reviews that come out in favour of the project, those on the other side have produced....ZERO! NONE! NADA! They can't even produce one expert that they can name to come out against the development. I mean...really? Give me a break....

  • Don't tell the Taxpayers about Muskrat
    November 30, 2012 - 10:03

    Its really sad that this is the best deal that nalcor and the dunderdale conservatives could come up with. There has to be more to it since bill 29 was passed.

  • saelcove
    November 30, 2012 - 09:11

    How long will it take to shut down holyrood 15 to 20 years or does anyone know or are they afraid to tell the truth

  • Cecil E. Young
    November 30, 2012 - 09:03

    The bottom line is that no matter how anybody puts a spin on it either for or against the Holyrood Generation Station; it's always turned on, it always burning oil and it's always polluting the environment. There's nothing anybody can do to make 100% clean. There was a time and place for Holyrood. It has served it's purpose. Time to close it up and move on to Muskrat Falls.

  • Winston Adams
    November 30, 2012 - 08:56

    Gerry, you are right that the latest information should have been available before now, and available for the PUB. And it is not all positive for MF. Some examples. 1. Vale load- was promoted as close to 100MW. It is now 74.3MW. The isolated small hydro is 77 MW and more than handles that. 2. Wind is now 54 MW. They said we could add another 25 MW to give max 79 MW. These figures allows wind not more than 5 percent of the total. That was the position put to the PUB in Feb 2012. Now they say wind is ok at 10 percent of our total. This allows another 100 MW, not 25. They also say 15 percent may be possible with some improvements and further analysis and at a modest cost to achive this of less than 1 cent per kwh. 15 percent allows us a total 232 Mw, an extra 178 mw. 3 On analysis some indicators showed a wind penetration max of 36 percent. Hawaii, an isolated system , a bit smaller than ours is proceeding with 400 Mw of wind, 20 percent or more. 4 Wind is an offset against Holyrood, Holyrood at present has minimum operating requirements whether the power is needed or not. So wind offsets considerable energy, but holyrood system reacts slowly which is not ideal. As this plant is old, and will need expensive upgrades, and as new gas turbine units will be needed for emergency use, even with MF, gas turbines should be used to replace Holyrood anyway. The main reason is this- gas turbines react to wind variation quickly. Nalcor studies show that the wind offset against thermal increase about 50 percent more with gas turbines as compared with the existing plant. These 4 factors are significant when assessing the island isolated option and I doubt if a non technical person would see this from the recent releases, and as there is no discussion on these points. And the speed to push ahead helps these things to be buried. 4. Energy efficiency is all but ignored. i calculate a potential 600 MW with 400 MW offset possible over 10 or 15 years, from mostly efficient heating. This actually reduces customer costs by about 30 percent a year, See 'Efficiency by the numbers" in Nov 24 Telegram. If all this information went to the PUB the lowest cost option would not be MF. But if the majoriity of Nflders are happy to pay much higher yearly power bills , so be it. In Joey's day he dubbed us The Happy Province. I tend to think happiness is over rated. I"ve opted for the efficiency solution. I will save 30 percent a year. It will sadden me to see most everyone unnecessarily paying much higher bills.

  • Maurice E. Adams
    November 30, 2012 - 08:27

    Frank --- what do you call it when Marshall, Kennedy, Bennett repeatedly mislead ratepayers by saying that Holyrood operates at capacity in winter and burns 18,000 bbls of oil a day?...... Over the last 9 years Holyrood on average operated at capacity only 1.6% of the time (5.5 days a year). And over the last 5 years (I have heard that that is only 1 day per year). Also, Nalcor has reported that Holyrood did not operate at capacity AT ALL in 2011.,,,,, But the 18,000 bbls per day has been put out there (and in the House by Kennedy). ..... and why, if not to repeatedly, over and over, mislead ratepayers?

  • Winston Adams
    November 30, 2012 - 08:14

    Maurice, John Smith said Vale uses 100MW. When questioned he came back wit a range of 80 to 100. You say 85, and I've seen this figure uses . Here is what Nalcor uses in their analysis, it is 74.3 MW. John Smith's 100 figure is 35 percent high. 85 is 14 percent high. My figure is in the latest data releases by government.

  • Frank
    November 30, 2012 - 08:07

    I guess you are the only person in the whole province who has all the answers Maurice and everybody else is either wrong or are lying!

  • Maurice E. Adams
    November 30, 2012 - 07:30

    If you rely on government info to make up your mind, you will be doing so as one who will be very misinformed. By way of example, government would have you believe that we have already (or very soon) will have used up the power that became available through the close of the paper mills --- Vale will add a need of 85 MW to the 1,544 MW peak demand we had in 2011 ---while our existing installed net capacity is 1,958MW. ...........From and energy perspective, in 2011 we used 7,742 GWh (885 of which came from Holyrood) --- which means, with Holyrood's firm capacity of 2,995 GWh, more than 2 full terawatts of UNUSED capacity remains in Holyrood alone (more than the 40% Nalcor says we need from Muskrat and Vale will only need 730 GWh at peak).......... Add to that that we spilled 694 GWh last year and that Nalcor gave evidence at the PUB that we would continue spilling until Vale comes on stream to use up our excess capacity (which means Holyrood will only need to supply a portion of Vale's needs). Our usage is about equivalent to about 10 years ago. In short --- a snowjob.

    • a business man
      November 30, 2012 - 18:04

      Each of us has the right to let government info make up our minds. I choose to do so when the party that I voted for forms government. Thus, I trust our government. I am also okay with the "snow job" because I, personally, expect to indirectly benefit from the the impacts of MF.