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It will be an interesting time when the province’s Public Utilities Board summons Newfoundland Hydro officials to explain the recent power problems today.

The meeting isn’t voluntary. The request reads like this: “The board requires that officials of Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro attend a meeting with regulatory staff. … The purpose of this meeting is to obtain timely information in relation to the inability of Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro to meet load requirements on the Island Interconnected system in recent days. Specifically, Hydro will be required to provide information in relation to the sequence of events leading up to the public electricity conservation request and rotating power interruptions, an update as to the current situation in relation to capacity and load, repair efforts, near-term plans and alternatives, as well as the specific details related to incidents at the Sunnyside Terminal Station and at the Holyrood Thermal Generating Station which resulted in system-wide outages.”

The PUB might have a number of questions — for starters, like whether removing some maintenance work at Holyrood was a good idea.

This is from Newfoundland Hydro’s last capital plan: “On Dec. 18, 2012, following the sanctioning by the province of the Muskrat Falls project, Hydro withdrew four Holyrood projects as future plans for the Holyrood facility had been refined since Hydro’s initial capital budget application.” The projects? Well, all had been deemed necessary until the Muskrat Falls announcement.

The work removed totalled $3,400,200.

The change concerned the PUB enough that it asked Newfoundland Hydro to explain the removal of part of the work on the generators, writing, “1. Please confirm that Hydro is cancelling and not deferring this project. 2. Please provide the information that has led Hydro to this decision in light of the evidence provided for the original justification. In the response, please provide details of what was ascertained during the major overhaul of this unit during 2010 as it relates to the rewind of the stator windings. 3. How will the system reliability be affected by the removal of this project?”

Hydro said it planned to make information known about the changes the board and other intervenors wanted sometime later — perhaps as much later as in its 2014 capital plan.

The PUB might have some other questions as well. For example, the government and Nalcor have been saying that the peak island power demand it faced before the blackouts, something over 1,500 megawatts, was completely unexpected. But the PUB was given energy forecasts by Newfoundland Hydro confirming it expected peak island demand of 1,544 MW in 2011, 1,581 MW in 2012 and 1,632 MW in 2013. In 2014? Newfoundland Hydro was forecasting peak demands of 1,691 MW.

The PUB might also want to ask about a Nov. 22, 2013 letter from Newfoundland Hydro saying it wanted to lease generators to help cold-start the Holyrood plant — at least until a new 60 MW combustion turbine was built at Holyrood in 2015. (The new turbine was to replace another turbine that developed, well, serious problems: “In 2012, it was determined that there was risk of significant catastrophic failure of the gas turbine if it was operated.”)

So, don’t be surprised if the PUB feels it’s due an explanation or two.

Organizations: Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro, Sunnyside Terminal Station, Holyrood Thermal Generating Station

Geographic location: Holyrood

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