Is­land hy­dro projects fairly con­sid­ered: former Hy­dro vp

Paul Humphries tes­ti­fies de­mand had to be met

The Aurora (Labrador City) - - Front Page - BY ASH­LEY FITZ­PATRICK

New­found­land and Labrador Hy­dro, a Nal­cor En­ergy sub­sidiary, has marked hun­dreds of pos­si­ble hy­dro­elec­tric de­vel­op­ments in the prov­ince over the last 50 years, with many be­ing small-scale projects of one to 20 megawatts of ca­pac­ity. Most re­main un­de­vel­oped.

Paul Humphries, a former New­found­land and Labrador Hy­dro vice-pres­i­dent re­spon­si­ble for sys­tem op­er­a­tions and plan­ning, said Tues­day small hy­dro and ad­di­tional wind power were given fair con­sid­er­a­tion against the 824-megawatt Muskrat Falls hy­dro­elec­tric project.

“I think we did a fair eval­u­a­tion of the al­ter­na­tives that were there,” he said, tes­ti­fy­ing at the Muskrat Falls In­quiry.

Re­tired in 2016, Humphries spoke about decades of re­view of the is­land’s hy­dro­elec­tric po­ten­tial. Sup­port­ing doc­u­ments in ev­i­dence in­clude an in­ven­tory of 160 “po­ten­tially fea­si­ble” small hy­dro sites iden­ti­fied in the late 1980s, sev­eral project fea­si­bil­ity stud­ies and cost es­ti­mates.

Humphries re­called how the pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment moved to de­velop a small hy­dro in­dus­try in the 1990s by al­low­ing pri­vate hy­dro­elec­tric de­vel­op­ments that would sell power to the Crown util­ity. Through a re­quest for pro­pos­als process, four pri­vate projects were ap­proved. Two con­tracts were awarded and power plants con­structed — at Star Lake and Rat­tle Brook — while in two other cases back­lash led to can­cel­la­tions. A mora­to­rium was is­sued on fur­ther small hy­dro de­vel­op­ments on the is­land.

New­found­land and Labrador Hy­dro moved ahead when needed, but sys­tem re­li­a­bil­ity and cost were con­sid­ered, he said, and a screen­ing process sifted the po­ten­tial projects.

Many lo­ca­tions were run-ofriver, without a reser­voir for wa­ter stor­age, to as­sure power can be pro­duced when needed. He said if the need for New­found­land and Labrador Hy­dro is to be able to as­sure firm, re­li­able power, run-of-river de­vel­op­ments brought chal­lenges akin to new ad­di­tions of wind power.

When in­quiry co-coun­sel Barry Lear­month ref­er­enced sites where it was pos­si­ble to store wa­ter, Humphries men­tioned other fac­tors caus­ing projects to be screened out.

Take the pos­si­ble ad­di­tions to in­crease out­put from the Ex­ploits hy­dro as­sets, for ex­am­ple. A trio of projects iden­ti­fied at Red In­dian Falls, Badger Chute and Four Mile Pond brought a va­ri­ety of con­cerns. Apart from a wa­ter man­age­ment is­sue that in­volved Abitibi at the time (a non-is­sue be­fore Muskrat Falls came about, with the ex­pro­pri­a­tion of Abitibi as­sets), the en­vi­ron­men­tal re­view was also seen as a chal­lenge. The Depart­ment of Fish­eries and Oceans had been pro­mot­ing work on salmon stock in the Ex­ploits sys­tem; New­found­land and Labrador Hy­dro sug­gested con­flict with the in­creased use of the area for tourism pur­poses (in­clud­ing by an­glers, boaters and cot­tage de­vel­op­ments); the projects would in­volve phys­i­cally mov­ing 12 kilo­me­tres or more of high­way, given new area ex­pected to be flooded; and there was a re­ported po­ten­tial to worsen ice jams and flood­ing at the town of Badger.

New­found­land and Labrador Hy­dro pres­i­dent Jim Haynes wrote to the pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment in a 2005 email about the Ex­ploits up­grades, stat­ing that if it was a power project of­fer­ing thou­sands of megawatts of new gen­er­a­tion ca­pac­ity it would be one thing, “but for 40-50 MW pub­lic out­cry would likely be louder.”

On the stand, Humphries spoke about the same “or­der of mag­ni­tude” is­sue.

“(The small projects) could not sup­port a large, en­vi­ron­men­tal mit­i­ga­tion cost. That would be enough to tip the eco­nom­ics of the project,” he said.

He re­it­er­ated a fore­casted en­ergy deficit was driv­ing the need for a sig­nif­i­cant, new power in­vest­ment at the time of the Muskrat Falls and “iso­lated is­land” op­tions, the lat­ter in­clud­ing small hy­dro de­vel­op­ments. He said his con­cern was mak­ing sure New­found­land and Labrador Hy­dro was able to meet the ex­pected de­mand, what­ever was cho­sen.

New­found­land and Labrador Hy­dro’s fore­casts and plan­ning didn’t fac­tor in a full, con­ser­va­tion and de­mand man­age­ment (CDM) pro­gram. Humphries said New­found­land and Labrador Hy­dro’s CDM pro­gram­ming was still “in the in­fancy stage” and he wasn’t com­fort­able with fac­tor­ing in re­lated es­ti­mates on how much de­mand might be re­duced and didn’t want to rely on it in de­ter­min­ing the power needed for New­found­land’s iso­lated sys­tem.

On an in­ter­con­nected sys­tem, Humphries said, you can im­port and ex­port as needed.

“That’s not an op­tion if you have on an iso­lated sys­tem,” he said, adding that DarkNL was a hard re­minder of what it can mean to not have power when you need it.

The other wit­nesses sched­uled to ap­pear at the in­quiry this week are former clerk of the ex­ec­u­tive coun­cil Robert Thomp­son, and Richard West­ney of West­ney Con­sult­ing.

A Labrador City man charged with mur­der will have his 10day pre­lim­i­nary in­quiry in the mat­ter held in Wabush court, start­ing Mon­day, Nov. 19. The in­quiry for Vin­cent Ward is set to run un­til Nov. 30.

Ward is charged in re­la­tion to a homi­cide in Labrador City on April 26. Po­lice iden­ti­fied the vic­tim as 28-year-old Vin­cent Be­langer Dom­pierre of Mon­treal, Que­bec.

A RNC team from St. John’s and Cor­ner Brook were called to Labrador West to as­sist with the in­ves­ti­ga­tion. Po­lice also noted there was a firearm in­volved.

ASH­LEY FITZ­PATRICK/THE TELE­GRAM

Paul Humphries at the Muskrat Falls In­quiry on Tues­day.

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