Pakistan — now, there’s an energy innovator

Russell
Russell Wangersky
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Remember back during the debate over Bill 29, how upset then-justice minister Felix Collins got when an independent agency suggested the changes in Newfoundland’s access to information legislation meant our access law had fallen behind that of Moldova?

Toby Mendel of the Centre for Law and Democracy told CBC’s David Cochrane the proposed bill would rank Newfoundland behind a number of developing countries, including Ethiopia, Mexico, Nicaragua, Bulgaria, Guatemala and Uganda.

Collins blew a gasket in the House of Assembly, suggesting the concerns were trivial and describing the former Soviet state like this: “Moldova, wherever the hell that is.”

Well, here’s another thought: with our current energy legislation, you can clearly make the case that, in some ways, we now rank behind Pakistan.

Well, behind Pakistan and a whole bunch of other places.

Why?

Well, because other places, including Pakistan, are actually opening up their power systems to other sources of electrical generation. Here, we’re closing the door, with the government passing legislation blocking the supply of power.

Chad Wasilenkoff, the CEO of Fortress Paper, recently wrote an op-ed piece describing one particular kind of power generation — cogeneration, where electricity is produced while also providing heat, usually steam heat, to buildings.

“Beyond North America, other continents have been touched by the energy-efficient, environmentally forward (combined heat and power generators). Not confined to industrial and manufacturing sectors, cogeneration facilities can be found in schools, apartment complexes, hotels, nursing homes, colleges and even breweries,” Wasilenkoff writes. “In Islamabad, Pakistan, the government is now allowing cogeneration producers to supply electricity directly to industrial consumers including sugar mills.”

The government of Pakistan is giving tax breaks for private power suppliers, saying in its power policy that, “It is estimated that Pakistan has a potential of generating more than 3,000 megawatts of electricity through cogeneration from its existing sugar industry. It will not only offset greenhouse gas emissions but would also help in generating additional sources of clean energy in the country.”

Is it wrong to point out that, under current legislation, it’s illegal to supply power to industrial customers, or, for that matter, for Newfoundland industrial customers to supply their own power?

The government wants us to conserve power because, in recent cold snaps, there simply wasn’t enough. But if you want to make more power for the grid?

Here’s what the provincial government put in place in the Electrical Power Control Act for any power generating facilities that might be built after Dec. 31, 2011: “Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro shall have the exclusive right to supply, distribute and sell electrical power or energy to a retailer or an industrial customer in respect of the business or operations of that retailer or industrial customer on the island portion of the province; and a retailer or an industrial customer shall purchase electrical power or energy exclusively from Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro in respect of the business or operations of that retailer or industrial customer on the island portion of the province.

“Notwithstanding another provision of this Act or another Act, a retailer or an industrial customer shall not develop, own, operate, manage or control a facility for the generation and supply of electrical power or energy either for its own use or for supply directly or indirectly to or for the public or an entity on the island portion of the province.”

So, you can’t buy power from anyone except Newfoundland Hydro, and you can’t make your own, either.

Now, the provincial government can exempt a power supplier from that rule — but since the law gives the government’s own Muskrat Falls power a competitive advantage (by making it the only game in town), you probably shouldn’t expect too many exemptions.

And if you feel like you want to find new and innovative places to produce and sell competitively priced electrical power?

Well, there’s Jamaica and Singapore and Australia, Denmark and Finland and the Netherlands and the list goes on.

And there’s always Pakistan.

You know, Pakistan. Wherever the hell that is.

Russell Wangersky is The Telegram’s

editorial page editor. He can be reached by email at rwanger@thetelegram.com.

Organizations: CBC, Fortress Paper, Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro

Geographic location: Pakistan, Newfoundland, Ethiopia Mexico Nicaragua Bulgaria Guatemala Moldova North America Islamabad Jamaica Singapore Australia Denmark Finland Netherlands

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Recent comments

  • Nancy
    January 21, 2014 - 13:13

    It sounds as though our elected officials are just as much in the dark as everyone else under bill 29? Is that the case?

  • John Smith
    January 21, 2014 - 11:04

    Bill 29....yep...it has been a successful rallying cry for the Liberals and the NDP....really worked to dupe the voter into thinking there was secrecy etc...going on...but I ask this...Don't you think that if there were conspiacies afoot that Tom Osbourne, and Paul lane would be screaming it from the rooftops? They were at these secret caucus meetings...don't you think they would be telling us all how the PCs are out to get us? Bill 29 is a sham, created by the Opposition and the media...jsut listen for how many times you will hear the terms...Affordable housing...seniors...and Bill 29 over the next few months....makes me laugh...

    • Dolf
      January 21, 2014 - 11:31

      Seriously, make you laugh? You're a joke unto yourself.

    • Tony Rockel
      January 22, 2014 - 09:20

      Trust "john smith" (whoever the hell he is) to stand up and defend the indefensible.

  • Maynard Clouter
    January 21, 2014 - 10:10

    The statement that "... you can’t buy power from anyone except Newfoundland Hydro, and you can’t make your own, either" may be taking things a bit too far. While I agree that the restrictions in question are unjustifiable and draconian to say the least, I read them as applying only to the activities of "retailers" and "industrial customers" of N&L Hydro. The usual interpretation of the word "retailer" is a business or person who sells goods or services to an end user, with NF Power being the obvious example in this case. I interpret this to mean that any individual who chooses to generate electricity for his/her own use is free to do so. If this is not the case then the restrictions become ridiculous and the entire population has grounds for a class action suit against the government.

    • FictionOrFact
      January 21, 2014 - 13:45

      Your interpretation is correct Mr. Clouter.

  • Angus
    January 21, 2014 - 09:07

    An area where this could have adverse effects is pulp mills and sawmills both of which need electricity and heat. Pulp mills cook wood and sawmills heat lumber to dry it. Both can use waste portions of wood to produce both the heat and electricity. By virtue of this act it would be illegal

  • A Campbell
    January 21, 2014 - 08:58

    If you read this it includes "energy" which if need to be could be interpreted in a broad sense. In other words, a new mall wouldn't be able to install Geothermal units to heat and cool a building since technically it is producing it's own energy? “Notwithstanding another provision of this Act or another Act, a retailer or an industrial customer shall not develop, own, operate, manage or control a facility for the generation and supply of electrical power or energy either for its own use or for supply directly or indirectly to or for the public or an entity on the island portion of the province.”

  • Politically Incorrect
    January 21, 2014 - 07:38

    It's hardly a surprise that Pakistan is ahead of us in many fields. The prevalent attitude here is "Change is different and different is unfamiliar and, therefore, bad." It seems to be innate in our culture. The very fact that we still have crosses on our secular schools is evidence. And yes, I'm aware of the irony of a theocratic state being more advanced in some respects than we are. Then again, they don't have their heads stuck in the tar sands.