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Editorial: Winds of change

The only constant? Change. And if you forget that, you’ll wind up paying for it.

The shale gas revolution? Discussed more than 30 times in this newspaper in the lead-up to the launch of the Muskrat Falls, and dismissed every time by the government of the day as a non-issue.

The constant risk of regular and massive cost overruns on hydroelectric projects? Well, that was the subject of 17 columns by Telegram columnist Russell Wangersky alone. Also dismissed out of hand at the time.

What nobody seemed to want to take into account in the days before construction started at Muskrat Falls? That assumptions can be wrong, and things change; that the world evolves — and electricity generation and markets evolve, too.

Another piece of that evolution struck home Thursday, in a barely noticed news release from Hydro-Québec.

A key part of the Muskrat plan involved selling power into the northeastern United States.

Back when Muskrat Falls was just a gleam in a premier’s eye, the argument was that ratepayers here would provide the meat-and-potatoes payment for Muskrat Falls, and excess power sold to a power-hungry U.S. would be the delicious, thick gravy atop a great deal for consumers.

Thursday, with power from Muskrat Falls now delayed until something like 2021, Hydro-Québec announced six different plans to answer a March 2017 call for proposals to supply power to Massachusetts. The Quebec utility is offering either hydropower or a hydro-wind power combination, through one of three different proposed transmission links.

Significantly, if the Hydro-Québec proposal is selected, other hydro sellers will be dealt out of the equation for a significant period of time.

“Through innovative partnerships with proven leaders in New England’s energy sector and experienced Québec wind power producers, this new source of clean energy will be provided to Massachusetts in the form of firm deliveries, every hour of the year for the next 20 years. “

In what you could calling rubbing salt in our Muskrat wounds, the Quebec utility took pains to point out nothing will delay its plans: “What’s more, Hydro-Québec’s high-performance fleet of existing hydropower generating stations produce energy that is available today, in significant quantities.”

The power won’t be needed until 2022, and Nova Scotia’s Emera, a partner in the Muskrat power project, is angling to build a cable to the northeastern U.S. to compete for the power bid.

Muskrat should be online by 2022, and able to be a part of the bid with any surplus power. It will also be a new player, with its power having to go through a $2-billion submarine cable that would belong to Emera and NB Power.

Massachusetts will make its pick in 2018 — when Muskrat Falls was supposed to be online, but won’t be.

Things change. Forget that at your peril.

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