Clock tick­ing for Holy­rood… or not?

The Telegram (St. John’s) - - EDITORIAL - Rus­sell Wanger­sky Rus­sell Wanger­sky’s col­umn ap­pears in 35 Saltwire news­pa­pers and web­sites in At­lantic Canada. He can be reached at rwanger@thetele­gram.com — Twit­ter: @wanger­sky.

This year, 2017, right now, was sup­posed to be the one — the year that the Holy­rood Gen­er­at­ing Sta­tion was sup­posed to be taken out of full-time ser­vice, and only used for backup power for five years or so.

At least, that’s what Nal­cor’s orig­i­nal plan said, the one that promised we’d have Muskrat Falls power by 2016, not by the 2021 or so when power’s ex­pected now. If the Holy­rood plant was to keep go­ing, Nal­cor claimed, it would need a $20-mil­lion a year, five-year restora­tion project.

With the cur­rent de­lays, the plant’s go­ing to be in op­er­a­tion for five more years than was ex­pected, while we buy oil to power it and re­pair its in­evitable is­sues, while, at the same time, Muskrat Falls runs up ever-more in­ter­est debt dur­ing con­struc­tion.

Shut­ting Holy­rood, you have to re­mem­ber, was al­ways a key sell­ing point — get­ting rid of the pol­lu­tion of burn­ing oil, get­ting rid of the cost of fuel, get­ting rid of the need for an ex­ten­sive cleanup costs needed to meet pos­si­ble new air pol­lu­tion stan­dards.

So why talk about this now? Well, be­cause, read­ing the tea leaves, some of the prov­ince’s big­gest elec­tri­cal users aren’t only con­cerned about Muskrat Falls fail­ing to meet even its new sched­ule, but also about whether New­found­land and Labrador Hy­dro is go­ing to keep putting money and fuel into Holy­rood to keep it op­er­at­ing well into the fu­ture.

That con­cern is raised in ques­tions posed by the prov­ince’s ma­jor in­dus­trial power cus­tomers in re­sponse to Hy­dro’s 2018 cap­i­tal pro­gram, a be­he­moth of $206.2 mil­lion worth of work the util­ity wants to do next year.

Six of the in­dus­trial cus­tomers’ 11 ques­tions are about Holy­rood — specif­i­cally, ask­ing for a com­mit­ment that the fa­cil­ity is clos­ing. (In those ques­tions, “base load­ing” means op­er­at­ing the plan to gen­er­ate power as an in­te­gral part of the gen­er­at­ing sys­tem.)

“Please con­firm that based on Hy­dro’s most re­cent in­for­ma­tion and as­sess­ments, the fore­cast use of the Holy­rood Plant (Units 1, 2 and/or 3) for some base load­ing is ex­pected to end by no later than June 2021, or if it is ex­pected to con­tinue to be used for fore­cast base load­ing pur­poses, post 2021, please pro­vide the pro­jected lev­els of base load­ing of the Holy­rood plant for 2022 and sub­se­quent years,” the in­dus­trial cus­tomers ask.

“If the Holy­rood plant is ex­pected to con­tinue to have a base load­ing func­tion - from 2022 on­wards, has Hy­dro, in its Cap­i­tal Plan, taken fully into ac­count the cap­i­tal projects nec­es­sary or pru­dent to main­tain that func­tion from 2022 on­wards? If not, what are the cap­i­tal projects that can be fore­see­ably ex­pected to be nec­es­sary or pru­dent to main­tain Holy­rood’s base load­ing func­tion from 2022 on­wards?”

“If the Holy­rood plant is ex­pected to con­tinue to take de­liv­ery of fuel, for power pro­duc­tion pur­poses (ex­clud­ing the 100 MW gas tur­bine de­liv­er­ies) from 2022 on­wards, has Hy­dro, in its Cap­i­tal Plan, taken fully into ac­count the cap­i­tal projects nec­es­sary or pru­dent to take, store and han­dle such de­liv­er­ies from 2022 on­wards? If not, what are the cap­i­tal projects that can be fore­see­ably ex­pected to be nec­es­sary or pru­dent to main­tain Holy­rood’s abil­ity to take, store and han­dle such de­liv­er­ies from 2022 on­wards?”

One thing’s for sure: the in­dus­trial cus­tomer group clearly wants New­found­land and Labrador Hy­dro firmly on the record about its fu­ture plans. And the an­swers will be fas­ci­nat­ing.

The big­gest sin­gle sav­ings from build­ing Muskrat Falls was sup­posed to be shut­ting down an ex­pen­sive, ag­ing Holy­rood sta­tion.

Just imag­ine if we end up both pay­ing for Muskrat, and con­tin­u­ing Holy­rood for some in­def­i­nite pe­riod as well. It re­ally doesn’t bear think­ing about.

Shut­ting Holy­rood, you have to re­mem­ber, was al­ways a key sell­ing point — get­ting rid of the pol­lu­tion of burn­ing oil, get­ting rid of the cost of fuel, get­ting rid of the need for an ex­ten­sive cleanup costs needed to meet pos­si­ble new air pol­lu­tion stan­dards.

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