I am writing in response to recent opinion pieces by Telegram columnist Brian Jones (“Dunderdale devotees deserve decimation”) and letter writer Charlie Menchions (“Second thoughts on Muskrat Falls”) on Jan. 24 which included a number of inaccuracies about the basic principles and economics of the Muskrat Falls Project.
While both writers shared their strong opinions against the project, and we respect the rights of others to their opinions, the facts about the need and value of Muskrat Falls are clear.
Muskrat Falls is being developed for the benefit of Newfoundland and Labrador and to meet our province’s electricity needs first and foremost. Muskrat Falls will meet our growing electricity demand with clean, reliable energy for generations to come. Decades of detailed studies and analyses exhausting potential alternative energy sources have continually shown that this project is the lowest-cost way to meet our electricity needs now and into the future.
The business case for developing Muskrat Falls and the Labrador-Island Transmission Link is based on meeting the electricity needs of consumers on the island — about 40 per cent of the energy produced at Muskrat Falls. The economics of the project have never relied upon any additional revenue being generated through the sale of energy from Muskrat Falls that is surplus to our needs — the remaining 60 per cent of the plant’s output.
Contrary to assertions by Jones and Menchions that there are no markets for our power, Nalcor Energy, through its energy marketing division, is already successfully selling energy into markets outside the province. Our agreements with Emera Inc. for transmission access over the Maritime Link and through Nova Scotia and New Brunswick will further strengthen our position as a key player in energy markets throughout Atlantic Canada and New England when surplus power from Muskrat Falls becomes available. The Muskrat Falls development will also make a major contribution to reducing annual carbon dioxide emissions by eliminating up to 4.5 megatonnes per year. The value of clean hydropower has also been recognized by the New England governors, who launched a formal process in 2013 with a goal to include new large quantities of Canadian hydro in the supply mix for their states.
While the merits of the project are sound, without any revenue from the sale of energy outside the province, surplus energy not needed in our province will be sold outside the province for profit. These profits will be returned to the province for the benefit of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians. Other provinces have been making strong economic returns from business opportunities such as this for decades, and this province, with its bounty of clean, renewable energy, will do the same.
The addition of the Maritime Link between the island of Newfoundland and Nova Scotia provides other benefits as well, including further enhancing the reliability of our provincial electricity system.
Following in-service, we will have the ability to import power from other markets if we require energy in an emergency. The Interconnection Operators Agreement established between Nalcor and Emera includes provisions for emergency assistance and emergency energy transactions. This agreement can be viewed in full on our website, at muskratfalls.nalcorenergy.com/newsroom/reports.
The development of Muskrat Falls will supply much-needed electricity in this province, generate years of employment, and inject billions into Canada’s economy. Since construction started over a year ago, more than $230 million has been invested in the province (as of November 2013), with residents of Newfoundland and Labrador making up over 80 per cent of the total workforce. These benefits are expected to grow throughout construction, with total income to labour and business estimated at $1.9 billion and peak employment at 3,300 workers in 2015.
Scrutiny is a good thing. It’s the right thing. However, it’s important for people to be knowledgeable on the facts of the project.
Throughout the construction of the project we’ll continue to meet with members of the public, answer their questions and have information readily accessible so that the people of Newfoundland and Labrador continue to have the opportunity to engage in an informed discussion.
Gilbert Bennett is vice-president
with Nalcor Energy for the
Lower Churchill project.