Mega-projects can make good sense

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It would be interesting to go back in the annals of newspapers over, say, the last 100 years and look at the press from massive infrastructure jobs across Canada, to see if there was unified support from all of the populace. As examples, the original Churchill Falls deal, Hibernia, hydro plants in British Columbia, cross-continent rail projects.

Many people, perhaps even a majority, thought they would be white elephants and would never be self-supporting. As time has unfolded, they have turned out to be engines of economic growth, precipitating new industries and financial benefit beyond what the original pioneers perhaps had ever dreamed.

These projects take great vision and courage. They require a long-term view — not five, 10 or even 20 years. They require a person to look 50 years down the road to see what is needed. A couple of easy points to make regarding Lower Churchill:

• There will always be a demand for energy and it will grow as the population grows.

• Hydro power can be stored. This is one of the wonders of this type of infrastructure, unlike coal or nuclear or wind power.

• While there has been talk of new alternate energy sources for 40 years, nothing has materialized that comes close to the reliability and overall long-term cost-efficiency of hydro power for large power blocks.

• It will never get less expensive to build a project, and the cost to produce power once the plant is built is fixed. Due to inflation, over decades it gets cheaper. This again is much different than gas plants, coal or other plants that require expensive inputs.

• Environmental regulations will get harder and make the development of these projects more complex.

• First Nations’ issues are proving more problematic and, again, as time goes on, will become even more time-consuming and complicated.

Investments from today for the future generations are required to help maintain the lifestyle we all aspire to and want for our kids.

A project such as the Lower Churchill will reap benefits for 100 years, and I firmly believe that this long-term investment will be seen as a great building block going forward.

Stephen Small

St. John’s

Geographic location: Canada, British Columbia

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Recent comments

  • Cashin Delaney
    October 02, 2013 - 14:17

    There will always be a demand for energy and it will grow as the population grows?No, better technology reduces demand, our population is not growing, no matter how hard we wish or how many $1000 bills the government gives out to newborns. Maurice covers the "you can store hydro" angle below... What else...reliability and overall long-term cost-efficiency of hydro power... well, having all your generation over 1000km away from St. John's puts a lot of faith in transmission system, and ignores a lot of losses. It will never get less expensive to build a project... yes, it can, when technology is leveraged and legal issues settled! Environmental regulations will get harder... First Nations’ issues are proving more problematic... So the logic here is that we must get this done before environmental science or aboriginal treaty law can be rightly addressed?

  • Maurice E. Adams
    October 02, 2013 - 11:50

    There is virtually no reservoir storage capacity at Muskrat Falls (that's why a Water Management Agreement is needed with Quebec --- who has refused to sign and is taking Nalcor to court). Also, the operating and debt servicing coast alone for Muskrat Falls over 50 years amounts to $15 billion (about $300 million annually --- about 3.5 times that 10 year average cost fueling Holyrood --- which has no impact on 92% of the province's greenhouse gas emissions)

    • BC
      October 02, 2013 - 20:02

      None of which pertains to the letters content.. no need to go on about Muskrat Falls - the place will be done soon, good sir.

  • bruno marcocchio
    October 02, 2013 - 10:31

    How uninformed and insulting these comments are! Indigenous rights are a nuisance that will require more time in the future? Environmental protection is a burden? Hydro at MF cannot be stored. With only 2 feet between high and low operational capacity at MF and the water flow controlled by PQ at UC there is zero capacity to store hydro energy at MF!