Friday, 29 January 2021


A Nalcor communication memo dated January 27 describes damage to “a small section of the electrode line” on Transmission Towers located on the Labrador Island Link (LIL) in an area between from L'anse au Diable to Muskrat Falls. The incident, it said, occurred “following a recent winter/ice storm in Labrador.”

The note stated that the section of the electrode line “broke and fell to the ground”. (HVDC electrodes are used to improve reliability on HVDC systems permitting continued operation but at reduced capacity.) The Nalcor statement also noted that “Repairs are required to be made on eight of the 1,282 towers.” It states that “(t)he main components of the transmission towers and the primary transmission lines were not damaged.”

The statement does not say when the event occurred (though mid-January is likely) or what the impact would have been had the Holyrood Generating Station been shuttered as part of Nalcor’s scheme to give economic justification to the failed Project. The Statement does not appear on Nalcor’s Web Site; the incident is embedded with information of the more innocuous kind, and it has not been reported in the media.

Nalcor does not acknowledge that all it takes is one damaged tower to bring down the whole system; damages to eight towers constitutes a catastrophe.

Right now, the public should be asking themselves a legitimate "what if" question - what if Holyrood was shuttered?

Reports conducted for the PUB by the Liberty Consulting Group have confirmed that an LIL outage will lead to a 500MW capacity deficit on the Avalon Peninsula if the 490MW Holyrood Thermal Generating Station is decommissioned.

This is a serious issue and not merely because no commitment has been made by the Provincial Government regarding the future of the Holyrood Generating Station. While politics is being played over an unnecessary piece of equipment for the new Corner Brook Hospital, and “Rate Mitigation” has been moved to the “hope” category of fiscal management, life and death issues are obscured presumably because the politicians are more worried about the reputations of the rascals at Nalcor than they are the people of the province.

Electrode cross-arm at top of 8 Towers damaged 

Have the public forgotten #DARKNL already?

A couple of comments may help rekindle this key public policy issue.

First, one of the few conclusions that MHI made - that Nalcor did not completely corrupt - the Consultant warned “that Nalcor’s proposed transmission line design criteria was inadequate and did not comply with industry standards and practices.”

 The PUB accepted their assessment.  

Reliability of an overhead transmission line is generally measured by its return period.A return period of 50 years (1:50-year return period) means the transmission line is designed to withstand weather conditions that will occur on average once in a 50-year period.” (Vol 2 CIMFP Vol. 2) The longer the return period the more sturdy the construction of a transmission line. 

The Commission of Inquiry noted the PUB’s position which “found that Nalcorproposed design criteria were inadequate and contrary to Canadian Utilities Standards and Practicesand not supported by the facts.” The Commission further noted that “Despite this criticism, Nalcor did not change its reliability return period or loadings at DG3.” The Commissioner acknowledges that Nalcor's refusal to deal with the substandard design was financial; the Crown Corporation was “lowballing” the Project estimates. 

Nalcor has attempted to claim that its design return period is actually 1:500 years. Even more recently than MHI's analysis, a 2016 expert report filed with the PUB on behalf of Newfoundland Power concluded that “the reliability level of the LIL is equivalent to a return period of no greater than 50 years.” (The same warning is given for the TL on the Avalon Peninsula.) 

Newfoundland and Labrador has (so far) has experienced one of the best winters on record. Is the public waiting for a “real” Labrador weather event before making this issue a priority? 

Perhaps in this General Election, it is time to get our priorities straight.  

The Furey Administration continues to offer no leadership to Nalcor and seems incapable of even keeping the Crown Corporation honest. Nothing has changed since former Premier Danny Williams essentially gave CEO Ed Martin the keys to the public Treasury.

Danny Williams, Kathy Dunderdale, Tom Marshall, Paul Davis, Dwight Ball and now, Premier Furey, have all expressed an unwillingness to take control of this reckless organization. They have even left many of the same senior Executives in place.

If the Premier Furey is being kept from doing his duty by certain unelected people having a vested interest in maintaining Nalcor’s veil of secrecy, perhaps, minimally, he will ask the PUB to investigate this latest saga casting doubt on the integrity of Nalcor and the safety and security of Newfoundland’s electrical system.  

Sounds to me, however, that Newfoundland ratepayers may need another #DARKNL to be reminded that 'cold and dark' is not just unpleasant and life threatening; it is actually about priorities - especially good public policy - and that it ought to rank higher than any other issue that has been raised in this Election.