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Sunday 5 January 2014


I don’t know about you, but to me 220,000 people without power or suffering rolling blackouts, seems a rather compelling crisis. 

Not to Premier Cathy Dunderdale, though.  “WE’RE NOT IN A CRISIS” says Dunderdale at the Sunday News Conference. The Premier must have been the only one, in the whole Province, running a high temperature!  Appearing on the third day of, yes…a “crises”, to acknowledge something is afoot, perhaps it is still not clear if the Premier even knows the power is out.

If the outages failed to cause Premier Dunderdale frustration, anger and resentment that was not the outcome for most people.   

NL Hydro V-P’s admission, "we saw this coming" apparently applied only to his ability to read the next days’ weather forecast. Couldn’t someone have told him: when it gets cold, as it often does in Newfoundland especially in winter, the demand for power increases. It’s been happening since Newfoundland got electricity.  DA!!!!!
The foresight needed to complete the summer maintenance program, DURING THE SUMMER, evidently must require uncommon vision. Though Henderson’s honesty was refreshing, his boss Ed Martin was not nearly so humble…hearing him backtrack on Henderson’s admissions at the Sunday’s News Conference, blaming “aging” equipment at Holyrood for the outages, reminded me of a Smallwood Book title, “No Apology From Me”.  The media let him get away with it…again!  Is there anyone among them who can ask a decent question!

For Pete’s sake it’s Newfoundland in the month of January…Nalcor’s SUMMER maintenance program is still not finished…aging equipment, my ass.  If anyone looked at the few days per year when Holyrood actually operates let alone at peak capacity they would have Ed Martin’s hide for footwear for not having Holyrood, and all the back-up turbines, in tip top shape.

People have a right to be damn mad, especially as you shiver and your kids are getting crankier by the minute. Look people: stop letting your selves be bamboozled with bullshit. JUST STOP LETTING AUTHORITIES PULL THE WOOL OVER YOUR EYES! 

When VOCM held its open line on the rolling blackouts, on Friday morning, the Hostess attempted to invoke the importance of Muskrat Falls; all their electricity problems would then be resolved.  Sensible callers to “the Show” were having none of it.  They could see that bad planning by the Utility was largely responsible for this debacle and any facile comments to the contrary would not be permitted to camouflage the truth.

VOCM is as guilty as any of the others for pretending that serious analysis of public policy issues can be substituted with talk, talk, talk, more chatter and arrant nonsense. VOCM is a useful tool if you want to find out whether the Mall is open or where the “warming centers” are located; even its talk Shows have a purpose.  But as to serious journalism, it may as well be owned by the Emergency Measures Organization (EMO).

The CBC is another great EMO microphone….god, if I have to listen to the shrill voice of Mayor Doc O’ Keefe one more jeesely minute, I’ll choose freezing in the dark!

Think any of the ‘Journalists’ would follow up and report on what happened, at Holyrood, to cause $13.2 million damage to a turbine, last year…good luck with that!  What did the Fire Marshall say? What did the expert analysis conclude? Was anyone at fault?

Did anyone think to ask why Nalcor cancelled its PUB Application for a new transmission line from Central Newfoundland to the Avalon as Nalcor chooses to spill water from Bay d’Espoir and other Hydro sites or how that played into the current debacle? Not likely. The CBC chooses to be another Call Centre just like VOCM! 

The subject of the media’s failure to deal with Nalcor and a complicit Government was to be the subject of today’s Post.  But how could one ignore the conditions in which so many people find themselves?

While issues of power security and supply get lost in the multiplicity of other issues that plague an unwise and enormous use of public funds, these power outages ought now to cause greater reflection on our vital electricity system among members of the public.

People have a right to be ‘pissed’ as these blackouts continue daily.    

Isn’t this a good time to ask yourself: what position will you find yourself in if the Labrador Island Link, the transmission line from Muskrat Falls, goes down in a winter storm? The same geniuses that can’t complete a Summer Maintenance Program on Holyrood generators and back-up turbines to supply a vital commodity, next in importance to food and shelter, are going to run a transmission line where?  Answer: down from Labrador and over the Long Range Mountains, one of the nastiest spots in North America for wind and sleet and snow. 

How long will a downed transmission tower take to repair? According to Manitoba Hydro International, the Consultant in whom Nalcor and the Dunderdale Government places complete faith, the repair period "...up to one month or greater in remote line sections are possible" . How would you like to be facing a winter of rolling blackouts?

Now ask yourself: do I understand even the basic aspects of the contracts which Nalcor has entered into with Nova Scotia?  How much power has been legally obligated to that Province, not just from Muskrat Falls, but from our entire Provincial Grid?   What happens if Nova Scotia needs that power as much as we do when cold weather conditions cause similar excessive power demands in both Provinces?  Ask too, if we can be sued by Nova Scotia businesses if we fail to supply.

Hundreds of millions of dollars, public and private capital, have been spent in this Province on high speed cable including fibre OP.  A very high percentage of residents have computers, smart technology, phones, Ipads and the like; all are armed with the ability to communicate with each other and increasingly with their thermostats, ovens and hot water heaters. They could even communicate with their smart meters if Nalcor thought for a moment about an intelligent way of reducing Peak Load or employing managed processes to limit power consumption in place of having asking people to comply via VOCM. 

The Economist Article "Smart Grids: Wiser Wires" is an excellent item describing how Nalcor is missing the boat.  Imagine if with a few mouse clicks the Utility was able to learn where a problem on the line is located, route around it, or “fix itself”?

The Vice-President of Nalcor, Gilbert Bennett, is a cable guy.  He is supposed to understand the advantages of Smart Grid technology.  What is he doing?  He’s heading up Muskrat Falls so that he can put more highly expensive electricity onto “dumb wires”. 

When Italy, Sweden, Germany and the U.S. are far advanced on Smart Grid technology, some even making smart meters mandatory, saving billions of dollars in the process, Newfoundland remains in the era of the dumb wire just because Danny and Dunderdale want a political legacy. 

Here at home highly qualified people, like Economist Dr. James Feehan of Memorial University, have written helpful solutions to the peak power issue.  Professional Engineer, Winston Adams an energy expert, former employee of NL Hydro has frequently written to the Telegram detailing highly credible methods of employing energy saving devices negating arguments for a foolish project like Muskrat. Others, too, have sound contributions to make.

They won’t get listened to because, as one former senior public servant explained: “they, too, would have to drink Nalcor’s Kool-Aid”.

 There are lots of questions you need to think about and put to your Utility when the dust settles.  Don’t expect the media to do it for you.  They have proven they are not up to the job. You have to do it yourself, else it won’t get done.

To quote Ed Martin’s favourite line:  “The Power is In Your Hands”. 

While Ed Martin wasn’t really serious, take that power into your hands.  Take it! Demand a different course. Show Cathy Dunderdale who is boss. 
Stop being bamboozled by bullshit!

Keep warm.