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Our electrical tab just keeps growing. Last August, Newfoundland Hydro said it needed to do $98 million in capital work in 2014 — that was before the January blackouts. Since then, the utility has argued it needs a $119-million combustion turbine for Holyrood and a new power line from Bay d’Espoir, price tag $219.7 million, as well as a new power line in Labrador that’s ballparked at $300 million.

On June 19, the utility went back to the Public Utilities Board with five new capital projects which, between them, will mean a 15 per cent hike in Hydro’s capital budget this year.

While the costs may not be as significant as new power lines, the requests for work are revealing, if for no other reasons than the questions the work raises. Here are some parts of the applications.

“Fluid samples were taken from all seven operating excitation transformers in Bay d’Espoir during 2013 to provide information on the condition of these transformers to refine the asset replacement plan. The results of the analysis of these samples were received in February 2014 and show that the excitation transformers on Unit 1 through 6 have approached their reliable service life and that Unit 7 has exceeded its normal reliable service life. The fluid analysis results show that the excitation transformers need to be replaced in an expedited manner to reduce the risk of another in-service failure and to ensure system reliability. The excitation transformers are a critical component of the Bay d’Espoir generating station …”

Replacement cost? $1 million.

Then there’s a new discovery, along 126 kilometres of high-voltage transmission lines.

“Since January 12, 2014, numerous insulator pin failures occurred on both transmission lines TL-201 and TL-203. A complete insulator inspection determined that TL-201 had significant corrosion on the insulator pins along the entire line and that TL-203 had isolated sections with significant corrosion. Hydro is recommending that all of the insulators on TL-201 be replaced and that 30 insulators on TL-203 be replaced. … The estimated cost of this project is $3,632,200.”

Then there’s the sudden need for capital expenditures in Wabush.

“Currently transformer T5 is not available for service due to increased moisture levels in the transformers oil and insulation. With T5 out of service, the capacity is reduced to 20.6 MVA. According to Hydro’s Operation Load Forecast for Wabush, peak demand is forecasted to reach 21.7 MW during the winter of 2014/2015. This exceeds the current available transformation capacity of the Wabush Substation. … The estimated cost of this project is $958,800.”

Then, there’s the start of the repairs and improvements discovered as a result of last winter’s power failure.

“The replacement of the T1 transformer and associated damaged equipment, along with installation of a new 230 kV breaker and modifications to the protection relays at the Sunnyside Terminal Station, are required to ensure that Hydro can continue to provide safe, reliable and adequate service from this essential facility. This project will be carried out over a two-year period (2014/2015). The total estimated cost of this project is $8,424,200.

“The completion of the tap changer replacement on transformer T5 at the Western Avalon Terminal Station is required to ensure that Hydro can continue to provide safe, reliable and adequate service from this essential facility. The estimated cost of this project is $1,452,500.”

That’s $14.5 million in expenses that weren’t expected less than a year ago.

Every transformer at one station. Every insulator on a main feeder line.

It sounds like more than a little overdue maintenance. And who will pay?

You will.

Organizations: Public Utilities Board, Sunnyside Terminal Station, Western Avalon Terminal Station

Geographic location: Wabush

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Recent comments

  • bluffwatcher
    July 16, 2014 - 17:41

    how much do the ratepayers pay ed martin? if i had a business and my hired manager let it fall apart,i would fire him/her in a second.no questions asked!

  • Corporate Psycho
    July 16, 2014 - 17:28

    Time for the BOD of Hydro to get the heave.

  • J
    July 16, 2014 - 14:01

    I'm confused by this Editorial. Are you saying we shouldn't be paying for the maintenance? Of course we will pay for more maintenance. I don't expect my electricity to be subsidized by anyone. Charge me the going rate and I will change my habits if I can't afford it. The alternative is more blackouts. If they didn't replace them and the blackouts happened you'd be going the other way. Technically, by going to and in some cases beyond the life expectancy hydro has actually saved money (although not in a way I, as a mechanical engineer, would recommend). If it was my *** on the line everything would be replaced at 80% of life or less. Don't like it, suck it up or find a replacement for me that would allow stuff to go to 100% of life. Then complain when stuff breaks at the worst times (middle of winter). Holyrood should have been replaced by a carbon copy of what's out there now, maybe something that can burn a cleaner fuel. Get another 30 years and then see how much demand there is for Muskrat. It would have made much more sense to revert back to local power supply that still exists in some rural areas and support through Holyrood.

    • Nichol
      July 16, 2014 - 15:00

      Exactly. But politically the grandstanding that was the two options presented for MF was calculated to end only one way. The selected option was cheaper by $2.2B than the alternative. This purposeful confusion of the masses was arrogant deceit at best. Still, Nalcor spouts this defensive drivel. We are now starting to see the effect of many years of neglect by NL Hydro of their own equipment. These requests to the PUB are a result of that neglect...and are just beginning. Yes, we will pay dearly for this. All we needed was an upgrade to get us to 2041. Sadly, island demand was much overstated. Now we have a 50 year mortgage on MF to pay for, in addition to all the other maintenance which would have been carried out prior to end of life cycle in jurisdictions with competent management.

  • Maggy Carter
    July 16, 2014 - 11:29

    Two disturbing realities of Muskrat will eventually creep into the public consciousness in this province. The first is that the Isolated Island and Labrador Interconnect scenarios put in front of the PUB were, in fact, additive - not alternative - elements of NALCOR's longterm development plans. Muskrat is now, of course, a 'go' and cannot be recalled. And yet we are already seeing elements of what were touted as alternatives to Muskrat being dragged back into the PUB for approval. The refurbishment of Holyrood and indeed many of the other smaller scale Island initiatives publicly rejected by NALCOR will ultimately be undertaken in tandem with, or in the wake of, the development of Muskrat Falls. The second reality is that NALCOR's estimate of future electrical demand on-island will prove to have been a gross exaggeration - one designed, of course, to provide a rationale for an expensive undertaking that it wanted for other reasons. With a declining population and a move by ratepayers toward more energy efficient alternatives (accelerated by the onset of rapid price increases), it will emerge that little, if any, increase in capacity was required in the run-up to 2041. What will, and has already, become evident is that reliability and security of supply should have been the main focus all along - and, of course, those objectives are largely dependent on island based initiatives.