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Wednesday 8 January 2014


Photo Credit: The Economist
The phrase, popularized by Mark Twain, “lies, damn lies and statistics” is perfectly suited to those whose arguments are weak and are wont to engage in the art of the ‘spin doctor’.

Excuses for the current power debacle are in full flight.

Nalcor CEO Ed Martin attempted to explain away Holyrood’s current problems stating, on the public media, that the recent spurt of unseasonal weather spiked the Demand by 35% over the average for the last 5 years. The impression left was that the recent temperatures caused a situation that was totally unforeseen, blind siding Nalcor.

The public is expected to think that such an occurrence should be reason enough to forgive Nalcor having dropped the ball on its basic maintenance program; on ensuring the electricity infrastructure was capable of meeting Demand, that the 'experts' at Nalcor as Premier Dunderdale calls them, had us covered. 
Of course, no statistic can obscure the fact that, as a candid NL Hydro Vice-President, Rob Henderson confirmed Holyrood Unit #3 generator " operating at one-third of its capacity..."; the Hardwood "...generator was taken out of service..." and the generator at Stephenville was "...waiting for parts on order...".  In other words, Nalcor's Summer maintenance Program was a disaster.

The Telegram quotes Henderson "...having Holyrood at its full capacity and the two gas turbines (Stephenville and Hardwoods) online would be enough to handle the power demand currently being faced".  

Mr. Henderson's comments constitute a sad indictment for Nalcor which he appropriately placed on the public record.  I expect the PUB will take due note of his comments.

But, back to the statistic of a 35% increase in average demand. Ed Martin may have thought that it would bolster his case that the current peak number was a big surprise.  He will find no luck there.

The problem for him is that Nalcor’s own Demand Forecasts are on the public record.

The average peak load, over the last 5 years, is 1549 MW.  The peak load experienced, last week, was 1720 MW as tweeted by Dawn Dalley of Nalcor.  This is an 11% increase over the 5 year average peak - not the higher figure Martin asserts.

But, even this figure of 11% is highly suspect.  Notwithstanding Ms. Dalley's Tweet, I refer you again to the earlier noted Telegram article by Reporter Ashley Fitzpatrick titled "Power demands still high, supply low" on Saturday, January 4, 2013 (P. A4) in which, the forthright NL Hydro V-P, Rob Henderson states: "Demand has been peaking below 1,600 megawatts".  The Telegram piece adds "Even so, Hydro lead Rob Henderson told reporters the system is being maxed out". 

Need more proof?  The first Technical Briefing by Nalcor on January 3rd noted that the current load was running at 1520 MW, no where near Ed Martin's or Dalley's numbers.  

Moreover, what the public needs to learn is that the figure "below 1600 megawatts" is completely consistent with the 2013 actual Peak of 1570 MWs and below Nalcor's own 2014 Forecast Peak Load of 1666 MW (see Exhibit 2).

Exhibit 1 (above) provides Actual Peak loads. Exhibit 2 is Nalcor's Forecast out to 2024, part of its DG-2 Submission to the PUB.  

‘Surprise’, by the way, results from being blind-sided.  If you have been forewarned and still failed to implement appropriate plans to compensate, you have either forgotten what you were advised else you failed to make provision for what you already know. 

Was Nalcor blind-sided? No.  

Nalcor was aware long ago that Peak Demand would reach 1666 MW in January, 2014 just as it was aware that the 2013 Peak Demand had reached 1,570 MWs.

It is too late now to feign surprise.

“Spin” may help in the fine art of ass-covering, but it doesn't engender confidence in Nalcor as a public utility or its CEO. 

Does anyone know the lyrics to "Numbers Don't Lie" by The Mynabirds? Here it is in part:

It was always what you said
It would be, and nothing more
Through the smoke screens and the pipe dreams
And the blood on the floor

You say it's black, well it's bound to be black.
You made up your mind, and you see with that.