After the blackout — some greener alternatives

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I write regarding the recent events concerning electricity supply in Newfoundland.

Our non-governmental environmental organization, Sierra Club Canada, has long been an advocate for green renewable energy options. Over the past few decades, we have made presentations to many provincial and state governments across North America regarding this area of interest.

In that context we offer the following recommendations which have been proven successful in other jurisdictions and which we believe will assist the Newfoundland and Labrador government and its citizens in developing a more stable and reliable electricity delivery system.

These recommendations include:

‰ The creation of an off-peak electricity rates program to spread the load demand on the electricity grid more evenly. This program would be open to all ratepayers and has been shown elsewhere to have been of particular benefit to low-income earners and those on fixed incomes. A good working example of this program can be found in the province of Ontario.

‰ The establishment of a Newfoundland and Labrador energy efficiency agency with a mandate to promote and administer energy conservation and efficiency programs in the province. This energy conservation and efficiency agency would be charged with conducting energy efficiency audits of homes and commercial, industrial and institutional buildings across the province to develop a provincial energy-efficiency inventory. Where necessary such audits would be followed by energyefficiency retrofits. The agency would set targets for its energy audits and retrofits, and where necessary, make recommendations for improved building code standards.

‰ There is a distinct conflict of interest between the mandate of Nalcor and the policies of energy conservation and efficiency. Nalcor is the provincial Crown corporation charged with producing and selling electricity to Newfoundland and Labrador ratepayers. The goal of energy efficiency and conservation is to reduce the amount of electricity being purchased by ratepayers as an energy efficiency and conservation measure. It is essentially against the mandate of Nalcor to actively support energy efficiency and conservation, as it runs directly against its goal of selling as much electricity as possible. It is for this reason that many jurisdictions have found it necessary to establish energy-efficiency agencies as a tool to make this public utility more effective for its consumers, the ratepayers.

‰ Support for small-scale independent electricity production to reduce dependence on one electricity production source. We also request that the government of Newfoundland and Labrador repeal Bill 61 and pass feed-in tariff legislation. This will permit local production and sale of green renewable electricity and foster the growth of energy efficient technologies and industry in Newfoundland and Labrador.

‰  Support for local green energy manufacturing industries, specifically Cansolair (this Newfoundland made product has been internationally successful for over 15 years with little, if any, provincial recognition) and the wind-energy technology companies. This province has good localized solar potential and the strongest and most reliable wind-energy supply in North America with hardly any solar- or wind-generated energy. This needs to change.

The world of electricity generation has changed dramatically over the past few decades. The establishment of a Newfoundland and Labrador energy efficiency agency combined with off-peak rates are two pieces of energy infrastructure needed to move Newfoundland into having a secure, diverse energy production industry which can support the development of other small and medium sized industries in the province while providing energy security for the province’s population.

Fred Winsor is conservation chair of the Atlantic Canada chapter of Sierra Club

Canada. He writes from St. John’s.

Organizations: Sierra Club Canada

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, North America, Ontario Atlantic Canada

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Recent comments

  • Cyril Rogers
    January 12, 2014 - 09:40

    As much as I have become an opponent or, to quote the Premier, a "naysayer", of Muskrat Falls, I have long had a deep interest in other forms of heating and other means of producing electricity. Some of these options appear to be more expensive on the surface, and they are, but they can readily achieve the objective of ensuring stable electricity on the Island. In fact, government should be one of the key proponents of such measures rather than placing constant obstacles in the path of such innovation and conservation. Large buildings readily lend themselves to such alternatives and could continue to have power supplied to them when the grid goes down. Ultimately, if the government mandated such methods as heat pumps, geothermal systems, solar power, wind power, and so forth, into the design of their buildings, it would pay off in the long run. Not only would it cost less if amortized over 25-30 years but it would decrease substantially the need for additional power from the grid. If one were to apply such methods to all new home construction, the conservation of power would see a net reduction and no need for the financial monstrosity that is Muskrat Falls. For any government to tout Muskrat Falls….some of the most expensive power on the planet….as a "good" project……. they are not thinking straight….. or there are ulterior motives.

    • Pumping hot air on the ROCK
      January 13, 2014 - 00:41

      Heat pumps, geothermal systems are great, but cannot match the utility of insulation with STONE, which is more economical, long-lasting, low-maintenance and easy to troubleshoot. Problem is, you a need a population motivated beyond profit, so I expect more matchstick&chaulk buildings packed full of "get ya on the comeback" technology that has a habit of driving homeowners up the wall. Too many of the residential heat pumps installed in NL are not setup right mechanically/ductwork sized wrong, and way too many are not being controlled properly and almost 90% have at least some control issue outstanding, that leads to further service calls beyond commissioning. Selling gear and drilling boreholes is always more profitable than selling cheap dimension stone or brick, and actually having to pay skilled masons, to get something decent built, instead of paying heat pump talking heads who could as well be selling hot tubs, for all they know or care about it. If the ulterior motive of resettlement was not ever-present, we could open up the quarries and build our future, alas, we are not meant to make ourselves that comfortable. Newfie "patriots" would be building you houses out of straw if the Banks were able to convince CMHC.

  • Cashin Delaney
    January 11, 2014 - 13:05

    Individual off peak rates require smart meters. Business customers should roll out the smart meters first for five years at least before the individual citizen is experimented on.  It is a big project to go with individual smart meters, and our money might be  better spent on improving and replacing broken equipment to get a functioning system before we go layering controls on our sparsely spread half million users. That being said, if I can feed back to the grid and get paid for it, these meters will make sense after repeal of Bill 61. I see smart meters as the ultimate control element, next to a water meter. For example, if we had smart meters during this "non-crisis" the utility would never have to address hard infrastructure, just play games with people in the dead of winter. Put Jim Meaney and Ed Martin on TV and ask them questions about how we should prepare for 2041. We gotta start talking the suit-dummies out of the visionary chairs, pronto. Derek Dalley = suit dummy. I don't understand the Sierra Club in general, who seem to see man as something outside nature. As the least effective solution is listed on top in Fred's letter, it indicates to me that he might be in need of speaking with Cansolair people, not just congratulating them. The rest is ok, just we don't have the population to realize a saving from an immediate rollout of smartmeters, but they would be a lovely way to waste more money, a dandy make work project and ongoing means of covering up other deficiencies. No one on a modest income will be installing $150 Honeywell wifi thermostats this winter, as analogy. Not sensible, yet all is permitted when govt spends our money now with a promise to save in 50 years time? Stick to protecting frogs is what I say to the Sierra Club, because off peaks rates may work well in some cases, but in this case, smart meters will be another government premature wastage, like smart boards in schools. Poor don't care if they pay more during a peak. Thats probably how they stay poor. The rich have money, so it matters not. Essentially, the off peak game is best achieved by a rearranging of civil timings, not a pressment on the individual. See the two-tier system Fred? Watch the extreme cheapskates down in the states, out trimming the hedges at night to save money, keeping piss in a bottle to save flushes on the water meter. These are RARE individuals. This individual misermaking control on tax paying civilians, while HARDCORE INFRASTRUCTURE ROTS is RETARDED. Speak to these meters when we have  root causes looked after, Don't make it a fanfare event of the liberal baton-passing. Humanity is a part of nature, no matter how inconvenient it is for the groups who believe it is not.