Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro is running out of time to increase the capacity to supply power to homes and businesses fed by the province’s isolated power systems.
While the Lower Churchill dev-elopment and industrial growth in places like Labrador West continue to be the focus for public debate on energy, the more than 20 power systems not connected to the existing island and Labrador grids — particularly along the Labrador coast — are heading for a brick wall.
Based on Hydro’s current load forecasts, peak demand on Nain and Hopedale’s diesel plants will surpass available supply this winter, with L’Anse au Loup potentially in the same boat.
In its 2013 capital budget application to the Public Utilities Board (PUB), Hydro has requested approval of immediate expansion of these isolated systems — through the addition of generators or replacement of smaller, existing generators with larger ones — at a cost of $11.4 million over the next two years. Upgrades to fire protection systems are also part of that number.
The application notes further expansion work is expected to be needed at L’Anse au Loup by 2019.
Hydro refers to the status quo at the diesel plants as simply “not technically viable” moving forward.
“In the event that the deficit in L’Anse au Loup becomes a sudden risk (this year), it can be mitigated by the installation of an available mobile genset,” the filing states.
The power supply gap anticipated for the coming year for Nain and Hopedale, meanwhile, was been deemed “insignificant” by Hydro, but the utility went on to explain the demand-supply gap will grow larger and unmanageable without the addition of new power generation.
“As time progresses this deficit will increase. ... To maintain a reliable electrical supply, generation capacity must be increased at the diesel generating plants in Hopedale, L’Anse au Loup and Nain,” Hydro states.
More growth on the horizon
Adding generation capacity at the isolated stations cannot happen overnight and the three sites named are not the only sites where Hydro is looking to add capacity to meet growing demand.
About 4,300 customers rely on the isolated systems. Millions in spending, above and beyond what has been requested for approval to date, will have to be approved before aging infrastructure and demand pressures are dealt with across the board.
Port Hope Simpson, Paradise River and Postville have been named as next in line for upgrade or expansion — with plans for the work and costing to be tabled with the PUB between now and 2015.
An interconnection between Port Hope Simpson, Charlottetown and Mary’s Harbour has not been ruled out.
“These replacements and additions are required to ensure that reliable service is provided to Hydro’s isolated rural customers,” Hydro has stated.
Meanwhile, a recommendation from Hydro on a long-term solution for supplying power to the Labrador coast is expected by the end of March 2013.
At the same time, a $2.6-million expansion to Hydro and Newfoundland Power’s “takeCHARGE” program has been launched, offering the installation of energy-efficient products, including compact fluorescent light bulbs and low-flow shower heads, free of charge for customers on isolated systems over the next three years.
“The program will increase availability and awareness of energy efficient technologies in rural communities, with the expectation of reducing energy consumption over three years by approximately 5,337 megawatt hours, which is a reduction of approximately eight per cent of energy currently generated,” states Hydro’s website, though that total expected decrease in demand is not broken down by general area or power system.