So, how exactly is Nalcor going to try and put lipstick on this pig?
To say the report was downplayed by Nalcor Energy boss Ed Martin is hardly an understatement.
Here’s what he said at the time.
“I think it’s important for everyone to be looking at it from the perspective of what has been achieved. I think our people have done a tremendous job. I came in here seven-plus years ago. The first thing I noticed was the people were fantastic, no question about that. But the second, third and fourth things I noticed at the time was somewhat troubling,” Martin told The Telegram after the release of the Liberty report. “The safety performance, to me, was unacceptable for an operation of this size. The age of the assets and the asset management processes and the work that was being poured into them for their age was not enough, not acceptable. The third thing was I could see a looming decision coming with respect to demand growing and more generation being required, and I knew we had to get down to business and make some decisions.”
Martin said the major items have since been addressed, pointing to an overwhelmingly positive change on key safety indicators, plans in the asset management room and the sanctioning of the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project.
Now, the province’s Public Utilities Board has released its own interim report, and the document is blunt.
“The board is able to conclude at this stage that the following caused or contributed to the outages:
“‰ Hydro’s deferral of scheduled preventive maintenance and testing of key transmission system equipment, including the 2013 scheduled and recommended testing and maintenance on the transformer and circuit breaker at Sunnyside, which failed.
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“•Hydro’s failure to properly execute repairs and maintenance.
“•Hydro’s failure to ensure the availability of qualified resources and vendor support.
“•Hydro’s failure to procure critical spare parts for its generation assets.
“•Hydro’s decisions on timing of generation asset repairs, notably the Hardwoods and Stephenville gas turbines.”
Even more blunt? How about: “The status of Hydro’s supply assets leading into the winter was a major contributing factor to the generation shortfall in December. Neither extreme weather nor other unusual events were significant factors in the January 2014 system events and outages,” and “The board is satisfied that Hydro’s asset management decisions contributed to the nature, extent and duration of the outages. The board has particular concerns in relation to the deferral of preventive maintenance and testing, especially given that at least two of the equipment failures in January 2014 are associated with deferred maintenance and testing.”
The PUB is clearly not looking at things “from the perspective of what has been achieved.” In fact, it’s looking at things from the perspective of what it is ordering Newfoundland Hydro to do. And it’s given the utility a lengthy, precise schedule on what it is to do and when.
It’s hard to find words to explain just how significant it is that this province’s major power generator has been put on a very short leash by its regulator.
But one thing’s for sure: it’s not the sort of thing that any utility would want to admit to any of its fellows.