Many Muskrat questions

Gerry
Gerry Phelan
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It’s easy being an armchair expert and on Muskrat Falls there are many. We’ve been told there is information overload, but few of us understand much of it.

I want to cheer for the project, but I’m still on the fence.

So today, 50 questions that came to me in less than an hour.

In no particular order, I wonder:

1. How much will my light bill go up with the development/without the development?

2. How badly do we need the power?

3. Are there efficiency or conservation measures we could implement that would stave off the need for a new power source for the island?

4. Can Muskrat Falls be developed for Labrador industrial development only?

5. Would the mining companies invest in it?

6. Can we afford the project given our deficit position and the world economy?

7. How much will the federal loan guarantee save us?

8. Can we do it without the loan guarantee?

9. We have heard about both Lower Churchill developments, Gull Island and Muskrat Falls. Why the smallest one now?

10. How will we be able to afford to develop Gull Island?

11. How many jobs will Muskrat Falls create now and permanently?

12. Wouldn’t it be better to wait until we get other major developments, like Hebron, off our books so we will have skilled workers to build Muskrat Falls?

13. Can we pay for Muskrat Falls with our oil revenue only, without the consumer shouldering the burden?

14. How will Muskrat Falls help the environment?

15. Are aboriginal rights protected?

16. Why do some aboriginal groups appear unhappy with the project, and what is being done to allay their concerns?

17. Why can’t we just renovate the Holyrood generating station or build a new facility?

18. What’s wrong with wind power?

19. Have we looked at nuclear energy?

20. What about other hydro developments on the island?

21. Why isn’t natural gas economically feasible?

22. How important is the transmission link to the island?

23. Have we considered a

fixed link rather than submarine cables?

24. If Emera backs out, will we still build the link to the Maritimes?

25. How much capacity do the transmission links have?

26. Can they carry Gull Island power or will more capacity be needed?

27. What recent efforts have been made to reach a deal on transmission through Quebec?

28. Have we asked Hydro-Québec to partner with us on the Muskrat Falls project?

29. Have we asked Fortis or other private companies to get involved?

30. Have we considered having Nalcor become a publicly traded company to help cover the costs?

31. Have we spoken with other provinces and made power-sharing deals with them?

32. What happens in 2041 when the Upper Churchill contract expires?

33. Has Upper Churchill power been covered in this proposal?

34. How long will the infrastructure to be used in this project last?

35. When will the project pay for itself or will it ever do so?

36. What happens if Emera is taken over by Hydro-Québec?

37. What’s the rush?

38. Nova Scotia has 180 days to scrutinize the project. Why don’t we have the Public Utilities Board do so again?

39. How much work has been done on the ground in Labrador and on the island?

40. Why don’t we have a referendum on the project?

41. Is the expected demand for power residential or industrial and who should carry the burden?

42. What is wrong with the mining companies in Labrador securing their electricity from Hydro-Québec?

43. What other industrial development opportunities does Muskrat Falls create?

44. Shouldn’t this project make money, not cost money?

45. Will MHAs be allowed to speak and vote freely?

46. Why can’t witnesses be called in the House of Assembly?

47. Why won’t the debate be broadcast for all to see?

48. Why hasn’t there been written information provided to households?

49. Why have business leaders been so silent on the project until recently?

50. Again, how much will my light bill go up with the devel-opment/without the development?

No position.

Just asking.

Gerry Phelan is a journalist and

former broadcaster. He can be reached

at gerryp@bellaliant.net

Organizations: Hydro-Québec, Public Utilities Board

Geographic location: Muskrat Falls, Labrador, Gull Island Hebron Holyrood Quebec Nova Scotia

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Comments

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Recent comments

  • MBC
    October 19, 2012 - 18:48

    Gerry.excellent article. I know the Minister of Natural Resources have read your questions. I would like to see you questions with answers by the Gov of NL published in a week of so.

  • Winston Adams
    October 19, 2012 - 12:51

    Gerry, you ask 49 questions, not 50, as your last and the first is the same. But that's ok, it is a critical question. You ask how much will my light bill go up with the development/without the development? Interesting that we still refer to it as a light bill, given that 4 percent of our use if for lights and 69 percent for heat. Nalcor and Manitoba Hydro point out that it is winter heat that is driving our demand. Now Ray Guy, that sage with the wisdom of Socrates,and who can smell a rat a mile away, has, in The Northeast Avalon Times piece, posed his own questions ,but just two. What will it cost me? What will it pay me? No one else has asked the latter question. But is obvious some engineering firms will get paid a lot, and constructions companies etc. But what of the average household, and small business? Obviously they bill be paid nothing. they will do the paying, with increased rates. But this is a very important question, as the non development of Muskrat Falls requires alternatives. I have pointed out that in jurisdictions like Vermont and many others, energy efficiency aimed at customers WILL 'PAY' you. With a 4 percent increase in rates to offset 50 percent of the costs, energy efficiency saves the customer 24 percent on their 'light' bills, most all from reductions in heating cost but no loss in heat or comfort. In Nfld we can do better. Maurice tries to answer all your questions, and I suggest he has not paid enough attention to the efficiency issue. With a full airing of this issue, and the obvious benefits, most of your other questions are not that urgent, and many can be just dropped. Can all those other jurisdictions who are very successful in this approach be wrong?

  • Winston Adams
    October 19, 2012 - 10:16

    Gerry, your first three questions are critical ones. To question 3 'are there efficiency measures can stave off a new generation source. My letter published in the Telegram oct 7, online oct 9 "bringing efficiency to the energy equation' deals with that question. My second letter intends to address the potential for Nfld. I have been doing the math on this, in particular if efficient heating can fully offset the use of oil consumed at Holyrood, which is mostly a winter time requirement. My finding is this. With all residential units that are now heated by electricity being converted, the result in savings is that it offsets Holyrood generation in 2011 by 2.06 times. For the commercial sector alone it offsets Holyrood generation by 0.67 percent of Holyrood productiion in 2011. For both sectors it offsets Holyrood production by 2.73 times. There are many other areas of efficiency savings to add to these that I would think could bring efficiency savings up to 4 times the 2011 Holyrood production. This answers this question, but a companion question would be what is the cost to do this. My present estimation is 1/4 the cost or less.And a added bonus is that it substancially reduces customers electricity costs by reduced energy needs and can stabalize rates at current levels or close to it instead of the 40 percent or more rate increase needed for Muskrat Falls. Where is the details of effeciency options by Nalcor that John Smith refers to?

  • Anne
    October 19, 2012 - 09:59

    John, or should I call you Ed or Gilbert? If the answers to the questions were easily accessilbe in a pamphlet to all citizens of NL, then we would have a chance to digest. Who has time to read all the web sites as you have suggested? Also, I find it ironic that some business people have now put ads on the radio singing the praises of Muskrat Falls. Also, how can we believe a government that has shut down all access to information?

  • Maurice E. Adams
    October 19, 2012 - 08:48

    1. How much will my light bill go up with the development/without the development? (WITH --- minimum 2% EVERY YEAR, COMPOUNDED), WITHOUT --- over the last 8 years it has gone DOWN -- TWICE, and with oil forecast to go down, then we cast expect something similar .............. 2. How badly do we need the power? (NOT AT ALL, PERIOD --- SEE www.vision2041.com ) .............. 3. Are there efficiency or conservation measures we could implement that would stave off the need for a new power source for the island? (YES, but being ignored, because the more power that is used, the more money Nalcor makes).......... 4. Can Muskrat Falls be developed for Labrador industrial development only? (Can, but won;t be because it is NOT economic)............. 5. Would the mining companies invest in it? (NO, same reason)......... 6. Can we afford the project given our deficit position and the world economy? (NO).............. 7. How much will the federal loan guarantee save us? (Very little compared to the cost)........... 8. Can we do it without the loan guarantee? (YES, but not cost effective)....... 9. We have heard about both Lower Churchill developments, Gull Island and Muskrat Falls. Why the smallest one now? (We have no need for, can't sell and can't afford Gull Island power)......... 10. How will we be able to afford to develop Gull Island? (NOT)......... 11. How many jobs will Muskrat Falls create now and permanently? (Already a shortage of NL workers, about 50 permanent jobs)........ 12. Wouldn’t it be better to wait until we get other major developments, like Hebron, off our books so we will have skilled workers to build Muskrat Falls? (YES --- if there is a need).......... 13. Can we pay for Muskrat Falls with our oil revenue only, without the consumer shouldering the burden? (NO) .... either way we need to borrow.......... 14. How will Muskrat Falls help the environment? (Only temporarily, and our transportation and industrial sector create more than 9 times as much greenhouse gas as Holyrood -- see www.vision2041.com ) 15. Are aboriginal rights protected? (NO) 16. Why do some aboriginal groups appear unhappy with the project, and what is being done to allay their concerns? (Some have not been recognized officially nd have not been consulted)....... 17. Why can’t we just renovate the Holyrood generating station or build a new facility? (We can. A consultant report, HATCH, done for Nalcor says that operationally Holoyrood is only about half its chronological age because it is only used as backup and rarely at peak)....... 18. What’s wrong with wind power? (NOTHING) 19. Have we looked at nuclear energy? (NO, excluded by provincial law)...... 20. What about other hydro developments on the island? (Do-able)........ 21. Why isn’t natural gas economically feasible? (Other experts say it is)....... 22. How important is the transmission link to the island? (NOT)........ our 60-year track record proves it.......... 23. Have we considered a fixed link rather than submarine cables? (YES, and ignored. A 2005 study done for the province said it was feasible, cost $1.7 billion in 2005$ and could save almost half a billion by not needing an undersea cable)....... 24. If Emera backs out, will we still build the link to the Maritimes? (NO. can't afford it....... 25. How much capacity do the transmission links have? (900 MW, for the Labrador/island, 500 MW for the NS link).......... 26. Can they carry Gull Island power or will more capacity be needed? (NO --- more capacity would be needed)......... 27. What recent efforts have been made to reach a deal on transmission through Quebec? (NONE)........ 28. Have we asked Hydro-Québec to partner with us on the Muskrat Falls project? (NO)....... 29. Have we asked Fortis or other private companies to get involved? (NO)....... 30. Have we considered having Nalcor become a publicly traded company to help cover the costs? (NO, but if costs bloom, we could lose control of the asset, or even a portion of our hydro might have to be sold at fire sale prices to the private secctor)...... 31. Have we spoken with other provinces and made power-sharing deals with them? (Good question)......... 32. What happens in 2041 when the Upper Churchill contract expires? (we will need to be in a strong fiscal position and an alternative market for at least some of the Upper CHurchill power if we are to deal from a position of strength with Quebec. Instead, we will have doubled or tripled our debt, we will have a alternative domestic market with 50-year take or pay high cost Muskrat Falls power, and will afain be at the mercy of Quebec for Upper Churchill power)....... 33. Has Upper Churchill power been covered in this proposal? (Nalcor says access to Upper CHurchill power is 'uncertain').......... 34. How long will the infrastructure to be used in this project last? (Transmission lines are being designed for 50 year life cycle)....... 35. When will the project pay for itself or will it ever do so? (It won't pay for itself. It will be paid for by ratepayers, our children and grand children).... 36. What happens if Emera is taken over by Hydro-Québec? (WE'RE SCREWED) 37. What’s the rush? (Good question)........ 38. Nova Scotia has 180 days to scrutinize the project. Why don’t we have the Public Utilities Board do so again? (Good question). Nova Scotia has 180 days AFTER Emera submits its application, which might not be until Dec, 2013, or NOT AT ALL)......... 39. How much work has been done on the ground in Labrador and on the island? (TOO MUCH)..... 40. Why don’t we have a referendum on the project? (Good question).......... 41. Is the expected demand for power residential or industrial and who should carry the burden? (residential, not justified, see www.vision2041.com). THERE IS NO JUSTIFIED NEED, PERIOD........... 42. What is wrong with the mining companies in Labrador securing their electricity from Hydro-Québec? (NOTHING) .............. 43. What other industrial development opportunities does Muskrat Falls create? (NONE, high cost power will discourage economic growth)......... 44. Shouldn’t this project make money, not cost money? (YES)........ 45. Will MHAs be allowed to speak and vote freely? (NO)........ 46. Why can’t witnesses be called in the House of Assembly? (Not permitted by government)........... 47. Why won’t the debate be broadcast for all to see? (good question)..... 48. Why hasn’t there been written information provided to households? (Coming, perhaps when it is too late to criticize)?........ 49. Why have business leaders been so silent on the project until recently? (were relying on government to push it through)........ 50. Again, how much will my light bill go up with the devel-opment/without the development? (only UP, a WHOLE LOT "with", up and down, "without"

  • John Smith
    October 19, 2012 - 08:03

    Every one of those questions have been answered, again and again. The information is available on the PUB site, the navigant report, the MHI report and on Nalcor's website. But what's the point? If people don't hear or read what they want to it becomes a big conspiracy.

    • Anon Anon
      October 19, 2012 - 16:17

      That's actually totally wrong, which you would realize if you read the reports. Hell, even if you heard the recent video with Ed Martin he says that the number will be released after DG3.

  • Cold Future
    October 19, 2012 - 07:23

    The NL consumer would dearly love to have a clear ungarbled answer to even half of the questions. The NL consumer should be given clear, concise answers to all of the questions.Muskrat project is severely challenged from any reasonable enconomic viablity evaluation-its a dollars and cents (sense) evaluation, if the total capital dollars are too high then the cents per Kwh becomes to high. With reference to your question number 13: is it a good way to expend taxpayer dollars to divert money from oil revenues which can be used for essential services such as health care, crumbling infrastructure, and the like to subsidize electricity for consumtion outside the NL market? It is a very significant consumer tax and hardship, whether you take the oil revenues or increase the electricity rates beyond the normal escalation rates for electricity in Canada.