Nunatsiavut presses forward on energy plan

Like Hydro, government looking at coastal power options

Ashley Fitzpatrick afitzpatrick@thetelegram.com
Published on March 15, 2014
Nain’s housing crisis has become a “desperate situation,” says Heather Angnatok of the Nain Transition House. — Telegram file photo

The Government of Nunatsiavut has released its planned budget for the coming year. It includes support for the start of work on a formal energy strategy for Nunatsiavut and its growing communities.
“The Nunatsiavut Secretariat has appropriated funds to hire a consultant to review energy needs and begin the process of developing an energy strategy, which would include addressing green energy sources, an important issue when attracting businesses to Nunatsiavut,” stated a news release by the Labrador Inuit government.

There is no public estimate for how much the consultant’s work might cost, as the contract has yet to be awarded, according to Nunatsiavut’s finance minister, Dan Pottle.

“The dollars have been set aside to hire a consultant to look at what our energy needs are and to develop a plan based on some of the consultations this person will have with our government and with our people in Nunatsiavut,” he said, reiterating the work will include consultations in the community.

Residents of the Labrador coastal communities, both inside and outside the Nunatsiavut land claim area, have repeatedly expressed a desire for a long-term power solution, apart from the current reliance on diesel generators.

Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro maintains the existing coastal power stations — small buildings, typically housing multiple generators.

As The Telegram has reported, the desire for a long-term plan for energy for coastal Labrador extends throughout the communities of L'Anse au Loup, St. Lewis, Port Hope Simpson, Williams Harbour, Charlottetown, Norman Bay, Cartwright, Rigolet, Makkovik, Postville, Hopedale, Natuashish and Nain. All are currently rely on these diesel-driven power stations.

In addition to pollution, the diesel systems have been targeted by critics for their limited capacity, though Hydro has put forward proposals for increasing that capacity in recent years.

In October 2013, a written exchange between the Public Utilities Board (PUB) and Hydro, over proposed spending on the coastal diesel plants, included the PUB asking Hydro for a list of long-term power options for the coast. Hydro had been expecting to have a study on power options available as early as the first quarter of 2013.

The utility sought approval to replace diesel units at Port Hope Simpson and Mary’s Harbour beginning this year, at a total cost of $2.6 million over two years. The PUB rejected the expenditure, stating it would wait to see all of the options on the table for the future before permitting Hydro to recover the cost of the diesel plant upgrades from ratepayers.

“Hydro plans to issue a report to the Public Utilities Board in the near future. The report Hydro plans to submit to the PUB is to support a recommendation to electrically interconnect the isolated power systems of the communities of Port Hope Simpson, Mary’s Harbour, Charlottetown and St. Lewis ... the interconnection of these four communities together in one electricity grid,” stated a Hydro spokeswoman, in response to questions Friday afternoon.

“The communities listed in this PUB report submission are in the southern part of Labrador and are not part of Nunatsiavut Government territory. Regarding the energy study completed where the Nunatsiavut Government communities are located, it is best to connect with the Department of Natural Resources regarding the study that was undertaken in that area.”

Meanwhile, the emerging study of power options by the Nunatsiavut government, through its consultant, will come in addition to the work of both Hydro and the Department of Natural Resources.

afitzpatrick@thetelegram.com