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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.