You can’t have it both ways. But reading Premier Kathy Dunderdale’s news releases from last Friday, you have to believe she wants to try. In Toronto, Dunderdale was lecturing other provinces and the federal government on the need to allow the open transmission of electrical power across this country.
“It is essential, as a result of this strategy, to establish rules and practices which ensure non-discriminatory open access to transmission service across provinces. This should be tied to a timely, effective and impartial system for resolving disputes with respect to the acquisition and provision of transmission service,” Dunderdale said, adding that a new regulatory framework opening access would help to launch new clean power sources. “The benefits to be realized from sound investment in this country’s energy infrastructure and a truly open access system for energy trade can be significant and long-term, and will shape Canada’s economic and environmental future. This is a matter of national interest.”
Dunderdale pointed out that, right now, that system only partially exists, thanks to requirements from our American neighbour.
“Canada does not have a national electricity system. Its system is a patchwork of provincial systems under provincial regulatory jurisdictions. Open access policies have been adopted, not in compliance with Canada’s own regulatory requirements, but in response to the U.S. Federal Energy Regulator’s requirements for participation in U.S. competitive wholesale markets. … The continued absence of an effective interprovincial electricity transmission system in Canada means we cannot always develop the best projects across the country for the benefit of all Canadians and we cannot benefit from improved integration of our electrical systems. This puts our country at a competitive disadvantage.”
It’s an admirable goal.
Strange, then, that Dunderdale’s own government talks the talk, but actually walks the opposite way. Not only is her government locking access to the grid in this province with legislation banning the sale of power by anyone but itself, it has also admitted that its legislation is likely in violation of the existing U.S. Federal Energy Regulator and open-access transmission tariff guidelines Dunderdale herself mentioned on Friday. Why? Because, without the law, companies might purchase cheaper power from outside the province instead of using Muskrat Falls power, hamstringing the expensive project from the outset.
Asked directly about the problems created by using legislation to close the Newfoundland market to new electrical generation sources, then-natural resources minister Jerome Kennedy said the government would wait and see whether its new rules were challenged: “Under the open access transmission tariff, there certainly would be an argument there, but we’ll have to wait and see how that develops. ... But you are right. Under (Federal Energy Regulator) and under the (open-access transmission tariff), there would be or could be potential arguments, but we’ll have to wait and see if they arise.”
So, on the one hand, Dunderdale is saying that barriers to the transmission of energy must fall.
On the other, her government has just passed legislation building exactly the kind of barrier she decries.
It’s a strange world.