Talk about a power fail­ure

The Western Star - - EDITORIAL - Rus­sell Wanger­sky

In the land of this prov­ince’s elec­tri­cal sys­tem, there are re­ports. Lots of re­ports.

Like Lib­erty Con­sult­ing Group’s “Re­view of New­found­land and Labrador Hy­dro’s Re­li­a­bil­ity and Re­source Ad­e­quacy Re­port.”

It came out about two weeks ago, just be­fore the Labour Day week­end. The ques­tion it seeks to an­swer is a straight­for­ward one. Can Hy­dro keep the lights on?

Let’s make it even sim­pler — in fact, let’s just put it in bul­let form.

Lib­erty makes a num­ber of points.

First off,

that New­found­land and Labrador Hy­dro has sig­nif­i­cantly un­der­es­ti­mated repair times for the Labrador Is­land Link (LIL), es­pe­cially if dam­age oc­curs in re­mote ar­eas and bad weather.

Lib­erty says the LIL could be out of ser­vice for months.

The Mar­itime Link can’t pick up the slack if the LIL fails, be­cause it can only carry 300 megawatts of power, and fail­ure of the LIL would mean we would need much more.

There are no agree­ments in place to sup­ply power over the Mar­itime Link if we need it, and no guar­an­tees the power would even be avail­able.

If there is a fail­ure in the LIL and we need to ac­cess power over the link, we’d be do­ing that at the same time as Emera would be scram­bling to find 300 megawatts of power it would nor­mally get from Muskrat Falls.

Even if we could get 300 MW of power from Nova Sco­tia, we’d still need 298 megawatts of new power.

Think about the time in­volved with re­pair­ing prob­lems on the LIL. Here’s what hap­pens, ac­cord­ing to Lib­erty, if one power-tower has to be by­passed: “Ground ac­cess re­quired un­der se­vere win­ter con­di­tions could add as much as another four days, bring­ing to 16 the num­ber of days re­quired to by­pass one struc­ture in a re­mote lo­ca­tion. Sim­ple ex­trap­o­la­tion of this roughly two-week pe­riod would gen­er­ate an out­age du­ra­tion that could range to per­haps six months for a worst-case cas­cad­ing fail­ure sce­nario on the LIL.”

Lib­erty’s anal­y­sis — tak­ing into ac­count things like bad weather and long travel times — is star­tling. If he­li­copter ac­cess isn’t avail­able, Lib­erty sug­gest it will be up to five days be­fore re­pairs that Hy­dro es­ti­mates can be done in eight to 24 hours. If up to three tow­ers were to fall, Hy­dro says a repair could take three weeks — Lib­erty says more like six weeks. More than three tow­ers? Hy­dro says it could take more than six weeks, while Lib­erty says “up to sev­eral months.”

So, we might need power from some­where, and there aren’t suit­able trans­mis­sion re­sources to get it to us.

A so­lu­tion — al­beit one that would have been un­ten­able dur­ing the time when the pro­vin­cial govern­ment was ar­gu­ing we ab­so­lutely, pos­i­tively needed Muskrat Falls for re­li­a­bil­ity rea­sons — is right un­der our noses, as it were.

Here’s Lib­erty again: “But an op­tion does ex­ist — more gen­er­a­tion on the Is­land or ex­ten­sion of Holy­rood’s life as a gen­er­a­tion source (not an al­ter­na­tive that Hy­dro was will­ing to con­sider at that time or at any later time un­til es­sen­tially the present).”

The Holy­rood Gen­er­at­ing Sta­tion, which has been char­ac­ter­ized for years as in near cri­sis mode?

Well, it turns out keep­ing Holy­rood go­ing may be the most fi­nan­cially rea­son­able op­tion — be­cause, oth­er­wise, we’d have to con­sider buy­ing newer, more ex­pen­sive backup com­bus­tion tur­bines for the North­east Avalon.

“Hy­dro should promptly ex­am­ine the like­li­hood and the range of con­se­quences of an ex­tended bipole LIL out­age un­der ex­treme weather cir­cum­stances, and should un­der­take a ro­bust ex­am­i­na­tion of gen­er­a­tion op­tions (in­clud­ing con­tin­ued use of the Holy­rood steam units) to mit­i­gate that risk,” Lib­erty rec­om­mends. “Hy­dro has yet to ex­am­ine suf­fi­ciently the op­tion of re­vers­ing its long-stand­ing de­ci­sion to end elec­tric­ity gen­er­a­tion at the Holy­rood steam units.”

Think about that: keep­ing Holy­rood as a backup would mean we wouldn’t nec­es­sar­ily have to buy the vol­ume of oil we do now, but the fa­cil­ity would have to be main­tained to a level of op­er­a­tional readi­ness. And for how long? “(We) be­lieve,” Lib­erty says, “based on what Hy­dro knows at this point, that it is nec­es­sary to con­sider care­fully, an­a­lyt­i­cally, and quan­ti­ta­tively keep­ing the Holy­rood units avail­able as gen­er­a­tion re­sources for at least a sev­eral-year pe­riod be­yond full Lower Churchill Project op­er­a­tion, if not in­def­i­nitely.”

Hoo boy.

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