Monday, 21 November 2016

MUSKRAT FALLS: THE PUBLIC RIGHT TO DECIDE (PART II)

Guest Post by David Vardy



In Part I of Muskrat Falls: The Public Right to Decide, I described how Nalcor’s Board of Directors has been an interim board since April 22, 2016, while the PUB continues to be denied authority for regulatory oversight over the Muskrat Falls project. This Part II examines other mechanisms for regulatory oversight.

Can we find mechanisms which will enable greater public participation in decisions, as well as create enhanced transparency and accountability, or is the only rational decision the suspension of work on the generation site, while completing only the transmission line?

Loss of the Quebec court case on Hydro Quebec’s rights to power from Churchill Falls for the period from September 1, 2016 to August 31, 2041 may have large implications on cost. Similarly recent problems with the coffer dam may add to cost escalation and delay the project ever further. These events add weight to the argument for suspension.

David Vardy
Auditor General
The Office of the Auditor General is part of the regulatory oversight to protect ratepayers and taxpayers. The Auditor General has an important role to play even though the Energy Corporation Act establishing Nalcor Energy places limits on how far he can go in investigating “commercially sensitive” issues. The Auditor General should be auditing all contracts to build the project.

Nalcor has been exempted from many normal oversight mechanisms, such as the Public Tendering Act, as well as from provisions of the Corporations Act and the Access to Information and Personal Privacy Act (ATIPPA) and has been afforded greater powers than those exercised by other Crown Corporations. Such exemptions and enhanced powers call for strong checks and balances to ensure probity, transparency and accountability. The recent announcement of the Auditor General’s intention to audit Nalcor is welcome news, and long overdue.

Oversight Committee of Deputy Ministers
The previous government created an Oversight Committee of Deputy Ministers to monitor the project; this committee issued its first report in July 2014 and issued quarterly reports up to the last quarter of 2015. The role of the Committee is to ensure project costs and schedule are well managed and that the project is achieving cost and schedule targets. It is also tasked with examining “whether risks are being sufficiently identified and addressed and whether Nalcor has established adequate contingency to address outstanding Project risks.”

Unfortunately this committee was not independent of government. It now appears to be virtually defunct, having issued no report on project activities in 2016.

Ernst and Young Review
The previous government retained Ernst and Young to assist the Oversight Committee with its oversight role. After the election, the new government expanded the mandate of Ernst and Young and asked them to report in March 2016. This was part of its commitment to open the books on Muskrat Falls. An interim report appeared early in April 2016 but a final report has not appeared. The mandate was to examine the cost and schedule, the key risks, and “identification of opportunities for remediation or corrective action, if necessary.” Despite the failure of EY to deliver the promised review government committed $1.3 billion in “equity” for Muskrat Falls in its 2016-17 budget. Nothing further has been heard from Ernst and Young since their report in April.

The terms of reference did not, unfortunately, call for a full cost benefit analysis of the option of suspending the generation component and continuing only with the transmission line. This option has been seen by many as a way to ameliorate the many risks involved with construction of the generation plant while at the same time providing a way to fulfill our obligations to Nova Scotia. It would also enable us to access Churchill Falls power in 2041 if needed.

Environmental Oversight
The federal provincial joint panel report of August 2011 recommended a number of oversight mechanisms. They included a monitoring and community liaison committee and a complaints resolution process. The province responded to the recommendations on March 12, 2012 but the response was ambivalent. The independent mechanisms recommended by the joint panel have not materialized (see Is It Possible To Make Muskrat Right?). That is why government is now dealing with complaints about methyl mercury on an ad hoc basis, responding to demonstrations, hunger strikes and the shutdown of work on the site through the creation of an Expert Advisory Committee, whose governance structure remains uncertain. Will Nalcor chair the committee? If so it will not be independent.

Why have there been no annual reports on environmental mitigation at Muskrat Falls as recommended by the joint panel? Where is the joint federal provincial regulatory plan?

Independent Engineer
The Independent Engineer, MWH Global, was appointed by the federal government to protect the interests of the federal government as guarantor, along with the interests of the Lenders. With the recent increase in the loan guarantee to $7.9 billion this oversight role of MWH has become more important. The last report of the Independent Engineer relates to the site visit of November 2015. A site visit was conducted in July of 2016 but the related report has not been released. According to NRCan, it is dated September 20, 2016.

Nalcor has refused my request for access to this report under ATIPPA, as has NRCan. Nalcor is refusing on the grounds that the report is incomplete and they are exercising their right under section 29 (1) (b) of  the ATIPPA Act to withhold the report.

Section 29(1)(b) reads as follows:

 29. (1) The head of a public body may refuse to disclose to an applicant information that would reveal …
(b)  the contents of a formal research report or audit report that in the opinion of the head of the public body is incomplete and in respect of which a request or order for completion has been made by the head within 65 business days of delivery of the report;

It is my contention that the report of the July visit to the Muskrat Falls site was neither a “formal research report” nor an “audit report”. It was a report to the federal government as Guarantor and to the Lenders under the federal provincial loan guarantee agreement of November 30, 2012, which established the Independent Engineer.  Why should Nalcor have access to this report before it is made public by the Guarantor?

In my complaint to the Freedom of Information Commissioner I said that the Independent Engineer reports “to the federal government and the Lenders and is not under the control of Nalcor. Clearly Nalcor is attempting to take control over this reporting process, which is highly inappropriate. This is not an audit report under the control of Nalcor and for which Nalcor can dictate what is to be included and what excluded.”

This appears to be an attempt to interfere with the independence of the Independent Engineer and with the integrity of the oversight process. Is there a tug of war going on between the Independent Engineer and Nalcor?

On top of this MWH was recently acquired by Stantec, a major contractor on the Muskrat Falls project which means that they are no longer independent. I have written to both the federal and provincial governments to ask how they intend to deal with this issue. Minister Coady responded to indicate that “Nalcor Energy and the Government of Canada are making arrangements to address the issue to ensure the continued independence of the IE.”
It is hardly comforting to hear that Nalcor is a party in this effort to ensure the independence of the Independent Engineer! Can we expect the fox to guard the hennery?

Conclusion
Despite the commitment of the government to “open the books on Muskrat Falls” this has not happened. The regulatory oversight process is fatally flawed and ineffective, without any semblance of independence, transparency or accountability. The public has a right to know both the cost of completing this project and the cost of stopping it. Furthermore these decisions are of such fundamental importance as to demand greater opportunity for citizen participation. Action should be taken to strengthen regulatory oversight. This action should include the following:

                      1. Appointment of a strong Nalcor board of directors, with the relevant skill set.
                      2. Reinstatement and strengthening of the powers of the PUB.
                      3. A full audit of Muskrat Falls by the Auditor General.
                      4. Expansion of the terms of reference of Ernst and Young, supported by 
                          independent  engineering consultants, to include a cost benefit analysis of                             suspending work at the generation site, while continuing with the               
                          transmission lines.
                      5. Government should revisit the recommendations of the joint environmental  
                          panel. With the three year delay in project completion, to 2020, there     
                          remains an opportunity to get the environmental remediation and adaptation                           right.
                      6. Corrective action to ensure the independence of the Independent Engineer                           bothfrom Nalcor and its contractors.

We as a province have placed an albatross around the necks of our children by sanctioning this project. The evidentiary basis for completing the project, rather than suspending it, has yet to be disclosed. It needs to be assessed independently of Nalcor.

Recent events accentuate the importance of undertaking a full cost benefit analysis of this project. The June 24 report from Nalcor disclosed $7 billion had been spent or committed so by now we may be approaching $8 billion.

The key question will be how much more it will take to complete, bearing in mind the leaking coffer dam, the cost of delays arising from the shutdown, the renegotiation of the Astaldi contract and the cost of reaching a water management agreement with Quebec. All of this could easily call for another $8 billion or more. We should suspend work at the generation site until we have a better estimate of the entire cost. To continue blindly is a tragic mistake.

Negotiations with Quebec should be held in abeyance pending a full cost benefit analysis of the option of suspending this project and continuing with the transmission line alone. Such an analysis may confirm the merit of suspending work at the generation site and preserving the assets, while inviting Hydro Quebec to sell us any power we may need between now and 2041. 

Our best strategy is to match the rates obtained by Hydro Quebec in other markets. Such a purchase of power from Quebec is likely to offer a lower cost option than the completion of the full Muskrat Falls project. It is also likely to be a lower cost option than negotiating a new water management agreement with Quebec.

David Vardy

36 comments:

  1. $8 billion heading for another possible $8 billion --- for a dam/powerhouse that may fail, that will destroy a main food supply for Labradorians and may be unreliable as an energy producer (and that is now forcing us to 'negotiate' with Quebec and could force us into extending the Upper Churchill contract past 2041). Maurice Adams

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  2. There may be a case for the completion of the transmission line alone, if necessary to meet obligations for Nova Scotia. Less of a case for Nfld needs. And remember, Liberty has stated the transmission from Muskrat will be less reliable than Nalcor claims. Expect more expenses from this reliability aspect after review by the PUB in early 2017. Liberty states that operation of the DC system also required a new upgraded power company to properly operate this system. Expect growing pains with reliability for some years, if not on a permanent basis with this transmission. Another reason to halt the dam and powerhouse at Muskrat, if reliability of transmission cannot be first demonstrated. This issue is of such concern that Liberty has stated thermal generation at Holyrood will need to be permanent as backup. This speaks to the unreliability of the transmission from Labrador. Sad, to see the incompetence of a situation where reliability issues are only to get underway 4 years after sanction of this project. Reliability is very uncertain. This alone call for immediate suspension of this project. Oh what a tangled web. Humpty Dumpty comes to mind....with Stan Marshall tasked to fix it.
    Winston Adams

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  3. The whole system is corrupt. The recommendations in the article above will never be implemented because it was the intent from the very beginning to ramrod this project forward for the financial gain and special interests of powerful players. Despite this egregious abuse of the general public, not a single political party has expressed any desire to halt it or lift the veil of secrecy. We have a problem here that goes far beyond Muskrat Falls.

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  4. David your analysis shows the abrogation of the responsibility of oversight on the MF debacle. None of the shortcomings are a mistake. They are a willful attempts by successive governments to keep the public in the dark. The more troubled this ill conceived project becomes the less the chumps on the hook for the costs are informed.

    The PUB exemption, the FOI mockery, a faux independent engineer, the E&Y reports buried all point to corruption, incompetence and contempt for democracy. Things are so out of control now that polite documentation of the issues at this point approaches complicity. When will demands for immediate action and "impolite" questions begin?

    The delays on release of crucial information and action on the ongoing incompetence must end. Marshall, Bennett et al dive deeper into secrecy and say less with each new disaster. Both the feds and province are abetting the secrecy and incompetence.

    The choices are stark and uncomfortable at this juncture. If you love NL and your way of life it is time to move from analysis to strident action. Stop Muskrat now!

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  5. This morning's Federal announcement on coal fired generation, (phase out by 2030), would indicate stronger interest in hydro development, such as Muskrat, Site C, Mackenzie, etc. Nova Scotia, which imports coal to operate it's generation, is a key with respect to converting it's grid to renewable sources. Maybe a deal with Hydro Quebec, bringing northern hydro to the Atlantic grid, is closer than we think.

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    1. It MAY signal an interest in clean energy. Muskrat, Site C are NOT clean energy if you consider the methane we now know emanates from dam impoundments. They generate at least as much GHG's as a coal fired plant.

      In addition both MF and Site C will be monuments to fiscal madness that will never compete with clean alternatives in cost alone. In both cases they proceed because the helpless ratepayer must bear the burden....in darkness. These fiscal boondoggles must end.

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    2. What studies do you have to back the statement that reservoirs produce as much GHG as coal plants? The most recent study which made the news did not make this claim.

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    3. http://www.ecowatch.com/the-hydropower-methane-bomb-no-one-wants-to-talk-about-1882106648.html

      Hydropower is dirty energy, and should be regarded just like fossil fuel. And environmentalists, far from embracing it, should be battling to shut down hydropower plants and block the arrival of new ones just as vigorously as we work to close and prevent construction of dirty coal plants.

      https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/methane-emissions-may-swell-from-behind-dams/

      Hydropower is dirty energy, and should be regarded just like fossil fuel. And environmentalists, far from embracing it, should be battling to shut down hydropower plants and block the arrival of new ones just as vigorously as we work to close and prevent construction of dirty coal plants.

      At this critical moment in the planet's history, philanthropic funders that support action against climate change must fund a movement against hydropower. Unless the scientific truth about methane emissions from dams is more widely acknowledged, pura vida will never be achieved in Costa Rica or anywhere else.

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    4. The generalization that all hydropower is as dirty as fossil fuels is isn't supported by research. I'm all for decarbonizing the grid but we have to be realistic about it. Unless we drastically ramp up nuclear power, we simply don't have viable alternatives that we could use to replace coal, nat gas, and hydro power generation. At some point I hope we do.

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    5. You miss the point. The research is lacking, the mechanism is now understood.

      If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it fall does it make a sound? Not in your world apparently. If a Sci Am article does not strike you as credible you have zero interest in facts.

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  6. Time to rethink Canada's industrial strategy West to East. NAFTA negated the development of a Steel/Coal complex at Sept Isle. A complete rethink is at hand with American Nationalistic President. Consider this: Abundance of renewable energy; Labrador/Que. Abundance of iron ore; Labrador/Que/Baffin. Abundance of thermal coal, Crowsnest, shipping via rail to Thunder Bay, St. Lawrence Seaway. Shipping ports; Sept Isle. Abundance of Natural Gas and petrochemicals. Abundance of skilled work force. Instead of the ever ending squabbling amongst Provincial Energy bullies, let's rebuild Canada as an industrial power and economic security.

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  7. Very Trumpian Robert. Make Canada great again (for the .1%).

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  8. "...purchase of power from Quebec is likely to offer a lower cost option than the completion of the full MF project..." --> From day one, that was the least cost option. It could still be the case now (and mothball/preserve current MF construction until market conditions improve).

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  9. Purchasing power from Quebec may be a fine idea, and I would support it, but they appear to have an even bigger winter peaking problem then we do here in NL as they require 1000+ MW worth of imports from Ontario and US to meet demand plus maintain reserves. We would have to be prepared to receive no power from Quebec during winter peak by generating it ourselves or importing through Nova Scotia.

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    1. So, encourage Beothuk and their plan to construct wind farms in St. Georges Bay, Burin, Bonavista, the istimus, etc. NS will not have surplus without grid power from Hydro Q. or maybe Fundy tidal. This should have been worked out in the 70's, when the Buchanan gov. went against acid rain threat, promoting coal.

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    2. If Quebec needs all of it's power output to meet its winter demand, where will Muscrat get the water to run it's power plant?

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    3. I don't disagree, I'm merely pointing out that purchasing power from Quebec may not be as easy and straightforward and some people think. Beothuk will likely achieve a capacity factor around 40%; I find some of the numbers they have made public, such as cost per kwh, to be dubious. Time will tell on that one.

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    4. The Churchill Falls facility will be at full output to meet peak Quebec demand. Once the water leaves the CF plant it simply flows down river to Muskrat Falls.

      "If Quebec needs all of it's power output to meet its winter demand, where will Muscrat get the water to run it's power plant?"

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  10. There becomes a time when there must be calls for a public inquiry into the decision making used to support sanctioning this project. What was the legal advice regarding the WMA; what was the Monte Carlo risk assessment concerning cost over-runs; how did they decide on Astaldi, when did the "lowest cost argument" be penned (before or after the term sheet), what analysis was completed to support their totally bogus load growth predictions (when NL Power projections were much more conservative), why did they exclude the Maritime Link from the Public Utilities Board? All these decisions were questioned by the critics at the time. The naysayers have been found to be correct. Now 12 Billion later we still can be told what is a forecast cost to complete and a schedule to do so? It is a tragedy unfolfing to our children. People may never go to jail, but they should be forced to explain their decisions under strong cross examination. Starting with Danny Williams, Kathy Dunderdale, Ed Martin, Jerome Kenney, and Tom Marshall. A debacle...

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    1. While I absolutely agree with you re. public inquiry kit will never happen because both Liberals and NDP supported the project.

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  11. When considering mega utilities capital projects, Cost Engineers are consulted on the merits of alternatives. One alternative is to defer major expense, and deal with consequences. This is usually about comparing the annual costs of physical plant expansion options. At the outset, Muskrat could have been deferred by applying annual cost savings in the order 10% of the Capital cost, ($5Billion), or $500Million. Major project risks; cost over run, schedule slippage, site conditions, cost escalation, environmental/social, etc. would be avoided. Such risks in Muskrat case have been somewhat catastrophic, thus confirming that the project deferment option had high importance. Memorial University had in the past a strong faculty of Cost Engineering, (Professors Ahuja, Campbell, Andrews, and others come to mind). Would it not be of value therefore to have this fine institution of learning give an accounting of what went wrong at the critical feasibility stage of Muskrat?

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  12. Robert, I recently had a call from the MUN alumini looking to update my information and of course looking for donations. She was a paid fundraiser, and I gave her a tongue lashing and asked her to take my name of their list. I explained my disappointment that our MUN, and engineering departments has been silent on the debacle of Muskrat, before and after sanctin. No seminars at the Harris Centre on alternatives,(maybe one on the use of gas for Holyrood) the pros and cons of the many various alternatives and what other jurisdictions are doing for energy options. That their voice was Wade Locke, who now seems in hiding and six months ago expressed shock at the latest cost estimates. I felt ashamed to be associated with such an institution, full of experts in many fields, but who showed no leadership in independent thought and analysis in regard to government policy and engineering options. One example: no end-use research analysis to guide power forecasting (a best method procedure carried out by most progressive power companies, but not here, as noted by Manitoba Hydro`s International report for the PUB.) The silence of MUN experts is deafening. We incur hundreds of millions of dollars in subsidies to MUN, and what do we get from them in analysis! Sickening. I explained that I do, however, financially support MUN medical research. She said she would pass along my views, and that perhaps someone would call me. Of course they didn`t.
    Winston Adams

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    1. Thank you for you comment. It is disturbing to say the least, that the once proud profession has ceased to provide, consistent with its "Calling of an Engineer" ethic, valued service to the Public at large.
      Would you please comment on what an estimated $500Million annual expense, alternative to Muskrat "Boondoggle" could have provided to offset the Electrical Supply/Reliability problem in Newfoundland?

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    2. In short:
      1. Proceed with the 77 MW island hydro that was identified by Nfld Hydro at a capital cost of 398 million.
      2 Proceed with just over 100 MW of new wind energy. This was a capital cost of about 240 million. Wind has a 43 percent capacity factor. These together is 738 million capital cost.
      3. Add 2 -100 MW gas turbines (one of which we now have). These help extend the life of the existing Holyrood units and improves reliability. These cost 100 million each. So far this is 938 million.
      4. Key component is not new generation, but to reduce our energy use and peak demand. So initiate a robust Energy Efficiency and Conservation PLan. This requires about 50 million per year and is funded by a 8 percent(0.9 cent per kwh) surcharge on rates, now standing at about 10 cents per kwh. This is no cost to the government or power company, except an administration charge by the power companies for the Incentive Plan to guarantee uptake for conversions.
      a)This must be aimed at the cause of our perceived power needs: to meet our high winter peak caused by inefficient baseboard heating. With adoption of efficiency for the customer, the power needs no longer exist.
      b) Efficient heating is achieved via either ground source, or ducted air source, or non ducted mini-split heatpumps. Mini-split heatpumps is by far the most cost effective. Annual heating energy is reduced at least 60 percent, and peak demand reduced 50 percent at -15C, and 40 percent at about -20C. A suitable olan should scale up to about 13,000 units per year.
      C) Annual savings on electricity for electric heated homes is about 33 percent. This offsets any power rate increase for the capital expenditures of new generation.
      d) while the potential for overall energy reductions is about 600MW, less than this is needed. 160,000 residential units with reduction for heating alone of 2kw each means 320MW reduction.
      e) Efficiency with hot water, air inflitration, and basement insulation would proceed at the same time, as need be.
      f) A ramp up is required for these conversions.
      g) Combined these allow a rapid reduction of fuel burning at Holyrood, for either the existing units or gas turbines, and achieve our goal of 98 percent green energy.

      This is not a radical concept, but being practised by most progressive power companies or forced on them with Directives from the Energy Minister.
      In practise, such a plan for Demand Management and Energy Efficiency works best in other jurisdiction when the government sets up a separate Energy Efficiency Corporation. Reason: It is a conflict of interest for power companies wanting to increase revenue via selling more power while trying to reduce energy use through Efficiency. Suggest you check Efficieny Nova Scotia and the dozens of other jurisdictions who engage in meaningful energy efficiency. In 2011 year alone Nova Scotia installed 20,000 mini-split heat pumps. And our climate gives a better efficiency than Nova Scotia or New Brunswick or Maine for these! Here, without incentives we installed about 50 in 2010, and reached 1000 per year last year, for about 5000 so far after 5 years. About 3 percent of our houses now have these.

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    3. Demand reduction (Negawatts) are far cheaper than building additional generation capacity and incentive programs should also include rebates for high efficiency wood stoves like Norway did. TakeCharge only pretends to care, but the conflict of interest becomes evident when demand reduction projects are denied for arbitrary reasons. All we get are trivial rebates like LED light bulbs, but not substantial things like heat pumps. I was told heat pumps were considered before MF as a potential alternatives, but now that MF is sanctioned, they don't want heat pumps. As far as they are concerned, it is all about carbon dioxide so if we are using "clean" MF power for our baseboard heat, then it is mission accomplished.

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    4. A most impressive response to the question; What was the more prudent path forward for NL (Energy) strategy? The accountability of Energy Ministers Past should be the focus, and drastically modified corrective future plans . Do you have confidence that the Government is now on the right path?
      Thank you

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    5. The NL government is not on the right path (assuming it was representing the public rather than special interests). I can say this as an insider. Analysts are not allowed to express rational opinions on energy strategy and critical thinking is not something you'd mention in a job interview because it is severely frowned upon. Criticizing Nalcor will also get you into trouble since someone from Nalcor will complain to your director or higher. Professors at MUN are afraid to speak out because it could cost them tenure if they don't have it already and serious repercussions are guaranteed. Do not expect things to change from within.

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    6. Of course, pellet stoves is an option and used in many jurisdictions. My analysis suggests at current electricity rates pellet stoves offer a 30 per saving while heatpumps over 60 percent savings on heat, hence my preference for heatpumps. Many off the Avalon are using wood stoves more as the main heating source. When power rates spike, as they will , conversions will escalate rapidly. Some figures for heatpump conversions for a house averaging bills of 300 dollars per month now: Installtion paid for plus save 15,000 dollars over 15 years. If rates double, the saving is 30,000 dollars over 15 years. So there will be a mass exit from baseboard heaters. Some Europe countries ban them as a main heating source. New Brunswick planned to ban them but backed off, likewise for Ontario. Incentives to switch to efficient heating is what they are doing. Here, we (the government and power companies) love the baseboard heaters just to keep and increase power demand to justify the boondoogle. Before sanction of Muskrat I was told there were plans to step up training for the trades for heatpump installations, but this got shelved. Heatpumps became standard for most commercial buildings 30 years ago. Now they are mandatory for government buildings, large buildings using ground source. Yet the residential heat (the source of our high winter peak demand ) is being deliberately ignored.
      Heatpumps were invented some 80 years ago. First minisplits in Canada were in 1992 (invented in Japan in 1983). Very suitable for residential. Installation here are the result of very favourable results and references: 65 percent hear references from family and neighbours. 5 percent from the power company. It appears many power company employees install heatpumps! But most Nflder have never heard of a heatpump. This is changing rapidly. But it destroys the economic case for Muskrat. The two are not compatible, unless there was a surging economy driving a large increase in new construction. The opposite is happening. This is a key time to acknowledge the inevitable and bring on robust customer efficiency. The public should be calling for it. Public policy, as indicated by Mr Vardy, should adopt this measure, and do it very soon. We are marching to our own drum and out of step with all other jurisdictions with this neglect. Minister Coady has given a Directive to Nalcor to cease cost of living bonuses. She says this is Prudent. Liberty cited imprudence by Nalcor(Nfld Hydro) some seventy times in their report. Liberty says to bring down peak demand. Coady should be Prudent and Bold and issue a Directive to reduce Peak Demand by 4 percent per year over the next 5 years (a 262 MW reduction or face heavy fines. Offer incentives for employees for achieving the goals. That is the way forward, and requires a stop on Muskrat.
      Winston Adams

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    7. The directive should read :reduce 3 percent per year (15 percent over 5 years, equals 262MW, based on a peak of 1750 MW) But reduction do not stop after 5 years.
      Winston

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    8. @Winston, heat pumps are not mandatory for new government buildings in this province. There is a heating cost/benefit study done for each new building and alternatives are presented. Sometimes the winner is geothermal, sometimes air source or air-to-water with perimeter baseboard. Every engineering firm contracted comes up with a different take on what is best especially when the try to guess at maintenance costs. What never seems to happen are passive design changes like reducing window sizes, orienting the building to face south with minimal north facing windows, using box like designs to minimize surface area or adding more insulation that building code requires. Some of these systems have been problematic, for example some ground source closed loop systems were unfortunately filled with corrosive methanol. One of the best systems I have seen is at the Geo Center. My favorite for existing homes is the multi zone mini-split. If I was to go to wood, I would consider an outdoor wood gassification boiler and use it to heat floors with hot water.

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  13. @Winston -- correction, by perimeter baseboard I meant a heat pump for the core of the building, and electric resistance baseboard around the exterior walls. Also, some public buildings are being converted to electric baseboard because it is low maintenance and the occupants do not pay the power bills. You can look at an old school like St. Andrew's in St. John's and see that it had an oil boiler before it was converted to electric baseboard. So, we moved from burning heating oil in the school at say 75% efficiency, to burning bunker fuel in Holyrood for maybe 35% efficiency.

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    1. Thank you for the correction, yes the inefficient baseboard resistance heating is still used occasionally, which seems imprudent generally, but explains why it is difficult to ban them.
      Your comment on passive design is a very important aspect for building efficiency and should be adopted.Also, I installed the outdoor unit of a mini-split in the attic (takes air in from the soffit and exhaust through the roof), and adds significant efficiency in the daytime from solar heat absorbed through the shingles. In the spring, the attic is often 30 degrees warmer than the outdoors.
      My experience is that multi-sone mini-splits using more than 2 heads may overload the outdoor unit in cold conditions and drive the unit to inefficient operation. R2000 houses having less loads may allow more heads per single unit. Sizing for cold snap conditions is essential to prevent overload and ensure a peak demand reduction on the grid. I am sure many engineers are aware of the substantial benefits of mini-splits for our climate here. Residential housing gets little engineering analysis, but good guidelines can do wonders to aid contractors who size and install them. There is little as to guidelines for that here.
      Thank for showing interest.
      Winston

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  14. The problem with all this pallaber about wood stoves and mini splits is that Newfoundlanders will have to pay for the entire cost of the Muskrat boondoggle. If we don't pay the increased rates and at current consumption levels, we will have to pay by other means such as levies or other forms of taxation. The bottom line is that we have to pay for the mistakes and blunders of the terrible decisions of our duly elected politicians, who don't need to be named because they are so well known.
    The only option we have is to move to Nova Scotia and the only problem I have with that is I would have to put up with Nova Scotians!

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  15. Of course that is correct that the waste of 7 or 8 billion must be paid for one way or the other. The problem with continuing on to a cost of 15 billion is that it doubles the waste and the burden on Nflders. That is the where it makes sense to put this project on ice to assess the wisdom of proceeding in full, in part , or not at all, and take the lesser of the evils. Even Stan Marshall says the assumptions to support the sanction of MF were false. That it is prudent for continuation seems very uncertain,and if not prudent, it is imprudent. Prudence is only based on Marshall`s say so that we are too far in to stop. But no proper analysis supports that.So we may look back in 4 years, 8 billion deeper in debt, and realise that Marshall`s assumptions were also false. We had no proper assessments and analysis in 2012, and none at present. If we had blind faith before, why should we have it again. Marshall is not infallible. I respect his achievements, but no single man or woman`s word should put such a risk to our future.If both Nova Scotia and the Federal Government don`t have substantial skin in the game for this to go forward, then we need to stop the project and do a proper independent analysis and assessment.If the assessment is deemed too risky and expensive, so be it. If so, we bite the bullet and change course. This burden and risk is too big for our province alone. Few would dispute that. I, for one am in the process of cutting electrical energy consumption by one third, as it is economic and feasible. It is feasible now, and more so when rates double. Anyone with common sense will do likewise.Many are in the process or planning stage to do this. This reality must be acknowledged and taken into consideration. We need not scratch our heads in 4 years and wonder why power sales on the island has plummeted. People are not idiots. They will do what is most economic, and that is use substantially less electricity when it is 20 cents per kwh. Let Marshall state what the electricity sales forecast will be when the price hits 20 cents, or even 17 or 18 cents. Lets see if his assumption will be right. And lets ask what his assumption is based on.
    Winston Adams

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  16. "People are not idiots. They will do what is most economic..."

    I just wished that our past/present leaders (well, Williams...) had done what was the most economic...

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