More criticism of Muskrat Falls project
Nalcor president Ed Martin recently spent two-and-a-half hours on VOCM Open Line trying to sell the Muskrat Falls deal to Newfoundlanders. At more than $500,000 a year in salary, benefits and bonuses (The Telegram, May 15, 2010), he seems like a pretty expensive communications person for Premier Kathy Dunderdale.
It begs the question: why is she not taking questions and explaining why we should let our energy prices double while we sell the same power to people in the Maritimes for half price? The decision to proceed with Muskrat Falls is a political decision and it should be the politicians who have to answer for it, not Mr. Martin, who reports to the premier.
However, since the premier isn’t taking questions on her $6.2 billion project, let me run a couple of things by Mr. Martin. On several occasions in the media, including on CBC Here & Now, NTV’s Issues & Answers and CBC Radio Noon, I’ve heard Mr. Martin offer conflicting statements about the purpose of the Maritime Link and why this province has agreed to give free power to Emera Energy of Nova Scotia for 35 years.
On some occasions, Mr. Martin has characterized it as a trade-off: They get our power for free in return for letting us use their line to export power into the Maritimes and New England. When it is pointed out that Nalcor has no advance power purchase agreements in place, which is very unusual for a project of this size, Mr. Martin has replied that Nalcor doesn’t want to sign such deals with energy buyers outside the province because at some point Nalcor may want to retain all of Muskrat‘s power here at home.
If we intend to eventually keep all that power for ourselves — though I don’t know where the demand is going to come from to support that — why did Ms. Dunderdale and Nalcor agree to give Emera free power for 35 years? Why give away free power for 35 years if we may not use the Maritime Link, or only use it for a few years?
I would also like to point out that Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin recently told CBC Radio Noon that currently there is no transmission capacity to move power from Labrador into New England. We heard a similar thing last fall when Emera admitted that in order to transmit Muskrat Falls power into New England, hundreds of millions of dollars in infrastructure upgrades would be needed and that they’re not sure it’s worth it for them to do that.
The more likely scenario is that Emera will buy all our excess power for use in Nova Scotia where they are trying to get off coal as their main source of energy. In that case, Emera will get 20 per cent of Muskrat’s power for free and pay market prices of two to nine cents per kilowatt hour for the rest while consumers here in Newfoundland will be forced to pay 14.3 cents per kilowatt hour.
I ask Mr. Martin: since the premier is not taking questions, why should we, the owners of the power, pay twice as much for our own power as people in Nova Scotia, who won’t have to borrow a cent to finance this project? Mr. Martin, why did you agree to this giveaway? Paul R. Baldwin