Talk about a power failure
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.
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.”