Monday, 27 February 2017

ARE YOU READY TO PAY TO POWER NOVA SCOTIA?

A Tale of Two Regulators

Guest Post by JM

The government of Clyde Wells introduced the Electrical Power Control Act in 1994. It was implemented to define electrical power policy in the province and to provide a means for the utilities to earn a return on their investment in the generation and delivery of the power.  Under the EPCA the Public Utilities Board (PUB) has broad powers to regulate and legislative responsibility for the planning of future power supply in the Province. 

It is worth reading the Act to truly understand the breath of powers which the PUB possesses in these areas. This did not occur by accident. On the contrary, the legislation received the very deliberate focus of the premier of the day.  When he introduced the Bill in the House of Assembly, Clyde Wells stated: 


Since June 2010, when the decision was made by Nalcor to develop the Muskrat Falls Project, the PUB should have had an integral role to ensure the project met the clear “Declaration of Power Policy” as outlined within Section 3 of the Electrical Power Control Act. 

The process of review ran counter to the intent of the 1994 legislative initiative.  Muskrat Falls was conceived in secrecy, and born under both delusion and deception

The process was neither open nor transparent.  Sadly, it continues to be executed in the same manner.

The people of the province will bear the result of this poor public policy with the predicted doubling of our electricity rates by 2021. 

In Nova Scotia another tale can be told. 

In 2014 the UARB (Nova Scotia’s version of the PUB) was given unfettered authority to examine and decide whether to approve the Maritime Link Project.  The UARB initially thought the price for the Maritime Link was too expensive and too risky to be borne by the Nova Scotia rate base.  As a result of conditions imposed by the UARB, the Nova Scotia ratepayer now has first priority access to the surplus power from Muskrat Falls, at market rates for the power (shredding one of Nalcor’s rationales for the project - industrial development in Labrador).  

Nova Scotia obtained additional assurance with respect to over-runs by imposing the condition that Emera must present and receive approval for any over-runs above the DG3 estimates. 

In Nova Scotia the rate payers have benefited tremendously from the UARB.  In fact, the Agency insisted upon delivery of a deal that for Nova Scotia is superior to the one originally negotiated by Emera. It successfully exploited Nalcor’s weaknesses to the benefit of the Nova Scotia ratepayer. 

Nova Scotians have truly benefited from the openness and transparency which underpins electricity policy in their province.   

Now, the next chapter of Muskrat Falls is unfolding between Nalcor, Emera, and the UARB. 
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Emera subsidiary, Nova Scotia Power, has applied to the UARB for authority to have the NS ratepayer pay approximately $160 million per year in connection with costs associated with the Maritime Link’s completion in advance of the flow of power from the Muskrat Falls Plant. 

A recent CBC article incorrectly stated that the UARB’s approval of those costs within the Nova Scotia rate base had already been approved. The CBC was also wrong in asserting that the NL ratepayers “are eating the cost over-runs”. 

The fact of the matter is that the UARB must yet decide what portion of the ~$450 million requested by the Emera subsidiary shall be recovered from the NS rate base.  Any amount not approved shall constitute an overrun – which will be shared by both Nalcor and Emera according to the terms of the agreements between the companies. 

This is a high stakes application for Emera. The company’s shareholders are exposed to considerable risk if the UARB does not provide full approval of the application. Nalcor, too, could be on the hook for over $100 million dollars  associated with the delay to the Maritime Link.

It is an issue which deserves more careful consideration from the CBC and from other news media. 

In their application, Emera has outlined and attempted to quantify the potential benefits to the Nova Scotia ratepayer with the early commissioning of the Maritime Link.  These are outlined under four broad categories:

      1)      Exported Energy to Newfoundland and Labrador
      2)      Imported Energy from Newfoundland and Labrador
      3)      Optimization of NS Power generation assets
      4)      Enhanced Reliability.

In support of its application, NS Power has forecast that over 2 TWh of energy will flow over the Maritime Link from NL between January 1, 2018 and December 31, 2019.  They have estimated that the energy will have a value in excess of $120 million (i.e. 6 cents per Kwh).

In this province, we need to ask: prior to Muskrat Falls generation, where will this 2 TWh of energy come from?  Undoubtedly, this energy must be that associated with the remaining RECALL from the Upper Churchill project.

This likely source raises many interesting questions. They include:

      1)      Can the Maritime Link be put into service without the Labrador Island Link (LIL) and the transmission interconnection between the Muskrat Falls and Churchill Falls plants (LTA)?
      
      2)      If the LIL and LTA are put into service, will Nalcor make a similar application to the NL PUB to have the cost of an early commissioning of the island transmission assets included in our rate base prior to the commissioning of the Muskrat Falls Plant?  Will our rates start increasing in 2018?

      3)      Are Emera looking for recovery of debt and equity financing fees on the Labrador Island Link as they are for the Maritime Link?  The reader should remember that Emera owns 29% of the Labrador Island Link.

      4)      What charges is the Newfoundland ratepayer expected to pay on the LIL in 2018 and 2019, associated with the Labrador Island Link? 

      5)      If this 2 TWh of energy is delivered to Nova Scotia, will Nalcor effectively give it to them, or will Emera pay market value for this energy?

      6)      Who will get priority access to this RECALL energy, the NS or the NL ratepayer?

      7)      Is it possible to purchase additional Upper Churchill energy to effectively displace oil generation at Holyrood and lower our rates in NL? 

      8)      If the Labrador Island Link is commissioned early for the primary benefit of Nova Scotia ratepayers, why would NL ratepayers be expected to pay for it?

The UARB decision will have a significant impact on Nalcor and, indirectly, on the NL ratepayer.  Nalcor would likely prefer to commission the Labrador Island Link early and provide RECALL to Nova Scotia, in order to reduce the portion of “unapproved over-run” from the UARB.  

But what is best for Nalcor, may not be best for the ratepayers of the province.

In the current PUB process, Nalcor has not provided any guidance regarding the use of RECALL to meet our increasing demand, or even to displace oil generation at Holyrood. Nalcor has provided little guidance about where 300 MW of power can be imported from Nova Scotia, or if any RECALL power can be used for the province before or after Muskrat Falls commissioning. 

Experts presenting to the PUB have recommended, in the absence of Nalcor’s guidance, that plans should be implemented immediately to secure an additional combustion turbine to ensure adequate system reliability prior to Muskrat Falls.  Request for Information “PUB-NP-314.pdf” contains this citation:
Nalcor has not yet shared their plans for RECALL power with our PUB. However, in preparation for Hearings presently scheduled by the UARB, Nalcor and Emera have filed confidential exhibits concerning where and how the 2 TWh will be made available to Nova Scotia at the end of 2017.

Unbelievably, the UARB is privy to information pertaining to positions taken by our Crown Corporation, related to RECALL power, which our PUB has yet to see!

Nalcor are trying to reduce their own corporate exposure to Emera. We need to know if what suits Nalcor is in the best interest of Newfoundland rate payers.

As Muskrat Falls enters the mid game, it is becoming obvious that Nova Scotia is the primary beneficiary of the Muskrat Falls project.  The projects represents a terrible deal, one in which NL takes the majority of the risk and Nova Scotia reaps the upside. 

It will be a sad day in 2020 when the LTA, LIL and ML are commissioned, and the RECALL power passes by the blasting smoke stacks of Holyrood, to supply green energy to Nova Scotia.  All the while, within our rate base, we will be paying Emera their return on equity on the LIL - so that the line can be primarily used to deliver energy to Nova Scotia. 

The time is now to open the doors of NL Hydro. We need the PUB to examine those issues, just as the UARB is doing for Nova Scotia.  Nalcor has obfuscated the truth on this project since its inception.  In the backdrop of delays to Emera, $800 million dollar over-runs to Astaldi, and a 2-year delay in the project schedule, the PUB needs to determine what else lurks behind the closed doors of our Crown owned utility.

Nalcor are in a very difficult position.  I am sure they believe they are acting in the best interest of the province; as an early inclusion of the LIL into our rate base may mitigate some of the rate shock associated with the project, and reduce some reliability related investments.   However, what is certain is that the NL ratepayer deserves to have the same openness and transparency as they do in Nova Scotia.  There must be some recognition that we are the ones who are paying for this great Albatross of the north.    


It is both ironic - and depressing - that the Labrador Island Link will be built, and likely used to import Upper Churchill power to both NL and NS, long before the plant at Muskrat ever produces electricity.  It is unfortunate that Nalcor denounced that as a practical option for our power supply back in 2012, even though there were many who considered it the least risk and least cost option at the time. 

33 comments:

  1. So much here to ponder. One is Emera's claim that the value of power transacted will be 6 cents/kWh. One product Nalcor will have available to sell over Maritime Link is spring time energy that is now being spilled on the island of Newfoundland due to low load and lack of storage. Based on last spring's prices in New England and today's currency value, the value of this power would be about 2.9 cents/kWh.

    More importantly, this post gives rise again to the question of who is looking out for the interests of NL ratepayers and taxpayers. It has become very clear with respect to Muskrat Madness and its associated components, that Nalcor is parasitic on the public in NL.

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    1. Considering the relatives capabilities of the appointments to these two Regulators, NL PUB is outflanked by NS UARB. One could reasonably make a similar judgement with respect the manning up of NALCOR and EMERA. NL ratepayers are the losing side.

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  2. This is a chilling look at the inability of Nalcor to negotiate a fair arrangement that protects NL ratepayers. It was done in secrecy like every step in the MF disaster. Secrecy that was required to hide the obvious truth from the outset, the fact that this project was unneeded, uneconomical, technically flawed and primarily a vanity project to slake a Napoleonic complex.

    The continued secrecy and impotence of the PUB will result in Nalcor again bargaining badly at the expense of the helpless ratepayer kept in the dark. At this point a desperate Nalcor needs the disinfection of sunlight or this will go very badly for the chumps that must pay for Nalcor's incompetence and secrecy.

    You can be sure Emera is licking its chops over the position Nalcor is in. They are well placed to take advantage of a desperate Nalcor now and when MF continues to flounder through incompetence and more delay in the future. They may end up owners in the fire sale of Nalcor that seems to be where all this is headed.

    The questions raised are important. My question is who and how will the PUB be restored? Who will restore sanity and fiscal responsibility? Who has the fortitude to unmask the Emperor and restore democracy?

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  3. Back in 2010 Nalcor sold the project as 20% of the power for 20% of the costs. Now Nova Scotia is entitled to 60% of the power. Nalcor are on the hook for unapproved overruns on the Maritime Link, and we will be paying for the Labrador Island Link extension cord to plug in Nova Scotia to give them cheap RECALL power.
    If this view is correct, who is going to be held accountable for this debacle?

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  4. Excellent article. Couple of points Emera owns 35% of LIL and both LTA are scheduled for commissioning in Q2 of 2018. No doubt this will mean a rate increase to NL ratepayer to give Emera it's return of 8.8% or so. UARB decision will start the ball rolling against us!

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    1. Danny...why have you been so silent? When the PC's were in power you were on local media and radio talk shows constantly criticizing, and rightly so, Nalcor and this project. Now the Liberals have shown themselves to be either incompetent or disingenuous yet silence from you. Please explain.

      Keith Ryan

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    2. Just did a media scan at the library.

      Danny Dumaresque has been quoted or published by NL news media 55 times since the November 30, 2015 election, concerning Muskrat of Nalcor, with media hits in or on the airwaves of the CBC, NTV, Radio-Canada, VOCM, the Telegram, Northern Pen, Aurora, Beacon, Gulf News, Labradorian, Packet, Pilot, Southern Gazette, Western Star, and Advertiser. If Danny is now being "silent", he's not very good at it!

      That doesn't include phone-in show appeareances, social media, or other online sources, or newspapers and radio stations whose news isn't "scraped" by a major news database.

      Got anything else to complain about on false assumptions?


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  5. I first read JM`s submission to the PUB, probably in 2012, and wondered who this person was. The initials JM (before reading the submission) brought to mind Jim Morgan, known as Jigger Jim, and who also opposed to Muskrat.
    Upon reading the submission, I was very impressed with the knowledge of the author on the subject, and how much time and effort had gone into this very professional submission. I wondered if it was a backdoor effort by Nfld Power, who must have realised the folly of Muskrat. I considered JM probably to be an economist with extensive knowledge of power systems, or being assisted by an engineer with a considerable knowledge of power systems, or vice versa: an engineer with good understanding of the economics, not just technical issues. In one article he, I think, identifies himself as an engineer.
    JM followed up with many articles, published and easily found on Ed Holletts site: Sir Robert Bond Papers. Recently I re-read, or read some for the first time, in particular the one dealing with future energy demand and peak demand forecasts, lack of end-use research, the inefficiency of baseboard heat, the power rate increases that were necessary.......etc. In 2014, when Nalcor was still suggesting power rate increases of some 40 percent, he laid out the case saying at least 85 percent. He did not make bold assumptions in arriving at his conclusions.
    Two year after JM`s figure of 85 percent increase, Stan Marshall cites a figure of 21.4 cents, more than double the rates.....and still climbing. Costs have even exceeded what JM calculated as likely.
    Surely if there is ever an inquiry, JM`s analysis is there as what prudent analysis would suggest from the get go, before sanction: that Muskrat would become a boondoggle and blunder.
    To say, 4 yeras after sanction that false assumption were made and that it was just an error or poor judgement will not explain away this gross incompetence.
    JM is to be applauded for his continued efforts to expose this scandal. Meets the Fighting Nflder title, assuming he is from the Rock. ANd yet we kick the can down the road on this issue, until one day soon the shit hits the fan with the public, and there will be much finger pointing, and the guilty will will run and hide.
    Winston Adams

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  6. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/newfoundland-labrador/house-of-assembly-opens-1.4000560

    Will the opposition not show up, take responsibility, and ask some questions, reflecting concerns in this Blog? Who's interests does PUB represent? Where are the CEO/Cost Management Reports?

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  7. Whoever did this could sure do a deal couldn't they??!! Nation building was it??!!

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    1. Seriously, does anybody on this Blog not have enough sway with an opposition Member to get some tangible information on Muskrat during Question Period?

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    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    3. Which Bill 23 and Session are you referring to Bruno?

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    4. Reading Hansard. Why is the Premier unable to give a straight answer to the Opposition Leader's question regarding ongoing negotiations with Quebec?

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    5. Speaking of negotiations with Quebec, can someone spill the beans as to what Danny and Kathy Dunderdale were offering Hydro-Quebec as terms to "develop" the so-called "lower Churchill" between about 2004 and 2009?

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  8. The present government has at least 2 ministers who were members of the board of directors of Nalcor and gave direction to the continuation of the Muskrat fiasco. The present finance minister after leaving the board of directors wrote a long letter published in the evening telegram praising the project and the former ceo and his fellow incompetents. The present government changed the ceo who shifted the chairs on the management deck in a minor way. The present premier and chair of the board of directors are chair leaders for the new ceo, but not the project, but have done nothing in the way of a serious review of the project that anyone knows about. Its damn the torpedos and full speed ahead!!
    The worst part of all this is that hundreds of civil servants have lost their jobs, and hundreds more to come perhaps, and largely because of bad decisions around this project by both the past and present governments and their failing teams!! And then there will come the electricity rate and/or tax increases to pay for all these mistakes! Where are the PUB and the consumer representative and the opposition parties?

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  9. Tom Johnson, a lawyer, filed with the PUB under his name. Brown, who I believe is also a lawyer, filed under what appears to be his partners name......why.....are we getting two for the price of one! Or more billing hours.

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  10. Today`s Tely has an excellent letter (A path not taken) as to the case that Ed Martin should have been fired with cause. Many incidents of incompetance is cited.
    Just one comment , from the troll John Smith, saying what a wonderful job Martin did, and what is the big deal if this increased from 1.1 to 1.8 billion. Seems this was originally a 5 billion that went to 11.7 and may go to 15 billion. Smith hope that Martin is on a island down south enjoying his millions and laughing at Vardy, Ball etc. And Sadly Martin probably is.
    With the changes for comments at the TELY , Smith seems almost the only one able to get posted, so he is possibly paid to get his 90 cent worth, where others cannot get 2 cents worth. It is said that Trump got in because main media excluded comments from disgruntled voters, while the far right permitted comments. Now the TELY mainly lets the trolls have their way. That Muskrat has just increased by .8 billion........an alternative fact by Smith (so rally a lie) that the Tely allows.
    Winston Adams

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    1. John Smith's full name is probably Danny John Smith.

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  11. More good news that the Alderon Kami project in Labrador West is back on the rails due to the recent increase in iron prices. The project description document says that they are close to reasonably priced electricity at approximately 5.6 cents per kilowatt hour and have a power purchase agreement already in place. Can't be Muskrat power, can it??!!

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    1. The Trump effect: infrastructure projects and American steel, which means Labrador iron ore. So does this mean burning more oil at Holyrood, or more costly still , diesel for the gas turbines there, as regular fuel is 10 cent cost but diesel is 29 cent cost.

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    2. Sadly, Labrador iron is shipped raw to permit added value, (steel making), benefits by foreign countries. Here in the Elk Valley, BC, millions of tonnes of met coal are also shipped raw to Asia, for the same added value loss. Donnie mine in Cape Breton is back into production of met coal. It too is for export. What happened to the Steel/coal complex planned for Sept Isle? Dealt away under NAFTA by a certain former IOC chair/PM?
      Will the current Liberal MPs in Atlantic Canada and Quebec not get it together to develop our Natural Resources; Power, iron ore, coal, work force, ports and infrastructure, for Canadians, a la "making Canada great again"?

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    3. Spell check converted Donkin to Donnie. Too funny

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    4. What's so wrong about shipping iron ore to steel mills? That's what iron ore is for.

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    5. You jest, of course.
      Most of the steel mills of note are in the Protection States of America. Atlantic Canada just not doing enough to provide jobs in secondary industries, utilizing our natural resources, (Crown Assets).

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    6. It's not "Canada's" role to "provide jobs" in any industry.

      Want to turn Canadian iron ore into steel in Canada? Open a steel mill. No one is stopping anyone from doing that.

      Juche isn't working in North Korea.

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  12. Premier Dwight Ball has now said that he wants to await the auditor general's report into Nalcor before considering a public inquiry. This report is expected to be done by end of April. Based upon the result of the AG's report on the Ed Martin severance fiasco, the AG investigation of Nalcor is likely to be tantamount to useless and nothing more than further delay in the investigation of the greater fiasco that is Muskrat. It is surprising that Ball now has faith in the AG, given that he disagrees with the AG on the Martin severance conclusions.

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  13. Although is seems unfair to NL ratepayers, as is everything Muskrat, once transmission is complete to and through NL, Nalcor/Hydro may well be able to get approval for its cost to start going to NL ratepayers before the power facilities are operational. As I understand it, under present legislation rates for Muskrat power are to be set by the provincial cabinet based upon a take or pay contract with Hydro. The present government however have promised, for what that is worth, that the proceeds of the sale of export power will be used to help pay down the massive cost of the project in order to ameliorate rates.

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  14. Reducing rate shock by increasing prices for the transmission systems' before the next election won't fly too well for either PC nor Liberals "it's the PCs fault for starting MF in the first place" "Liberals continued the disastrous project" "NDP wanted the union jobs and stood on the Muskrat fence"
    Pre MF rate increase can prove price elasticity (Nalcor's largest assumption that demand would forever go up) and that we DIDN'T require new generation, until much later by 2036.

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  15. FYI ---- for 2016 total island load (energy use) was down just over 1% and peak demand down 1.9% from year 2015

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    1. On your blog Vision 2041, under the heading DEMAND, and found under `Do we need the Power` You give the 10 year demand and energy use forecast and actual.......but it seems to only go to the year 2013........Maurice can you update this to the present if you have the data, and also the recent updated forecasts for the next few years. I often refer to your data and would appreciate if you can show this.

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    2. Will update soon.

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  16. Thank you anonymous, if that's your real name, for pointing this out. My point was Mr. Dumaresque not only criticized Nalcor and the project, and again I say rightfully so, he was also quite critical of the Williams administration for sanctioning this project.

    I have not yet heard, and I stand to be corrected, him be critical of the Ball administration for its' handling of the Nalcor/MF boondoggle.


    I think Mr. Dumaresque, who I might add has done yoeman's service on the Nalcor/MF file, is more than capable of speaking for himself which is why I question the need for someone, hiding behind anonymity, felt the need to come to his aid.

    This project, as Mr. Dumaresque has clearly stated on a number of occasions, was a political one to which I absolutely agree. That being said the current liberal administration, I would argue, has done a poor job defending the need to carry on with this project given the precarious financial position of the province.


    Keith

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