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The Sir Robert Bond Papers: The parties and Muskrat Falls #nlpoli

The mighty Muskrat Falls turned up a few times in the leaders’ debate on Monday night. Now that the project’s huge problems are plainer,  folks like Earle McCurdy of the New Democratic Party are working hard to capture the anti-Muskrat vote.&… . . . → Read More: The Sir Robert Bond Papers: The parties and Muskrat Falls #nlpoli

The Sir Robert Bond Papers: Methylmercury and Muskrat Falls #nlpoli

Muskrat Falls has been the big issue in two successive elections. In 2011, the parties wanted to talk about the project, while voters didn’t.  It never showed up in the list of any Top Five issues for voters. The parties wanted to talk about M… . . . → Read More: The Sir Robert Bond Papers: Methylmercury and Muskrat Falls #nlpoli

The Sir Robert Bond Papers: Scary words #nlpoli

From Newfoundland Power’s rate application to the Public Utilities Board.


The interconnection to the North American grid is a transformative event for the electrical system that currently serves the island of Newfoundland. It also creates significant uncertainties for Newfoundland Power and the customers it serves.

How the costs of the Muskrat Falls development and the transmission systems necessary to create the interconnection will be recovered from Newfoundland Power’s customers is part of that uncertainty. The reliability of wholesale supply for the Company and, indirectly, Newfoundland Power’s customers after interconnection, is another part of that uncertainty. These matters will likely be considered by the Board over the next 2 to 4 years. It is already clear, however, that the interconnection as currently proposed will have significant potential consequences for the future cost and reliability of electrical service for Newfoundland Power’s customers. (pp. 1-6 to 1-7)

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The Sir Robert Bond Papers: Consumer to pay 19.8 cents for electricity in 2020: Nalcor #nlpoli

Muskrat Falls will ensure consumers in Newfoundland and Labrador pay much higher electricity rates than they otherwise needed to pay.

The latest Nalcor estimate is that consumers in the province will see a 53% jump in rates between now and 2020, with rates hitting 19.8 as the project enters commercial production.

The information came in the reply by Nalcor officials to a question by Tom Baird.  Here’s a screen cap of the portion he tweeted on Tuesday:

Double whammy there for Nalcor:

Bad enough. the 2020 date confirms recent projections from two different independent sources – via Uncle Gnarley – that Nalcor’s megaproject in Labrador is now two years behind schedule.  There’s a very good likelihood the real date will be later..

Far worse, you now know you will be getting a massive  – and entirely unnecessary – jump in electricity rates due to Muskrat Falls.  . . . → Read More: The Sir Robert Bond Papers: Consumer to pay 19.8 cents for electricity in 2020: Nalcor #nlpoli

The Sir Robert Bond Papers: Alternatives to the Falls #nlpoli

Since people are wondering if Muskrat Falls really is still the cheapest way to make electricity for local use,  let’s take a look at it.

The tale is actually very simple.

Nalcor argued that Muskrat Falls was cheaper than one alternative:  an island system dependent on thermal generation using some sort of petroleum fuel like the heavy stuff burned at Holyrood.

Now that wasn’t true even in December 2010, as this SRBP post noted at the time. Even if you accept the contrived studies used in 2012 to justify Muskrat Falls,  the massive cost increases for the project have made the Falls more expensive than the alternatives. 

The only advantage Muskrat had over thermal (oil) was fuel and those prices have gone in one direction:  down.  Since you can build a new thermal plant near to the demand source, you wouldn’t need the expensive connections to the mainland.  That . . . → Read More: The Sir Robert Bond Papers: Alternatives to the Falls #nlpoli

The Sir Robert Bond Papers: Consumer electricity costs to jump by 59% due to Muskrat Falls #nlpoli

The average consumer in Newfoundland and Labrador should expect to be paying 59% more for electricity compared to their current  rates once Muskrat Falls comes online.

A household that current pays $156 a month for electricity (not including HST, basic charge or provincial rebate) will see their monthly charge increase by $94 a month with Muskrat Falls included.  Those calculations use Nalcor figures and current domestic electricity rates.

Former Premier Danny Williams, the man behind the project, dismissed the cost increases for the project as “mouse droppings” and nothing more than the “cost of doing business.” 

Nalcor boss Ed Martin said last week that consumer prices would go up by an additional seven dollars a month due to the most recent increase.  Martin didn’t explain that those calculations were merely the added costs from the latest increase added to Nalcor’s earlier forecast based on cost over-runs.  What Martin also . . . → Read More: The Sir Robert Bond Papers: Consumer electricity costs to jump by 59% due to Muskrat Falls #nlpoli

The Sir Robert Bond Papers: Muskrat Falls commercial power by Q2 2019 ? #nlpoli

The latest progress report shows that Nalcor had a productive summer, but an extrapolation by the researcher and writer  JM of information in the latest progress reports points to first power from Muskrat Falls in September 2018 and full commercial power by the middle of 2019.

In at post at Uncle Gnarley, JM described the challenge facing Nalcor in 2015:

As correctly noted in the March 2015 oversight report the productivity improvements in Q2 2015 are essential to meeting the final milestone schedule.  For the Muskrat Falls team, the summer of 2015 is really “make or break” for the project.  They need to get the project back on track before the construction schedule is hampered yet again by another Labrador winter. Winter begins earlier in Labrador than it does on the Island. The project team knows this.  The questions is this:  is the productivity improving at a pace where . . . → Read More: The Sir Robert Bond Papers: Muskrat Falls commercial power by Q2 2019 ? #nlpoli

The Sir Robert Bond Papers: Pride and Failure #nlpoli

‘”Pride is a big factor”  a manager at Muskrat Falls told the Telegram’s James McLeod on Monday during the latest media junket to the Big Dig North. People come to work every day and say “I built this.”

Pride is the essence of Muskrat Falls. 

Go back to 2012.

All the business people who looked forward to making a fortune off the project never talked about risk, profits, cash flows, return on their investment, and other stuff you’d expect business people to talk about.

They say stuff like “We believe in good things for our province.”  Or “… we believe we have the courage to harness the opportunity before us and make these things happen.”

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The Sir Robert Bond Papers: New Englanders know you’re bullshitting ‘em, Paul #nlpoli

The New England governors and eastern Canadian premiers were in town on Monday for a quick meeting.

The only thing that seemed to make local news was talk about electricity sales.  This is old hat for regular readers, but it is worth going over again.

New England wants to buy electricity.  They can get lots of it very cheaply thanks to shale gas lately.  How cheaply, you may wonder?  Well, in August it was running around four to five cents a kilowatt hour wholesale, not including transportation.

To put that in Muskrat Falls perspective,  it is less than half the cost of making electricity according to the estimate five years ago.  Where the price is these days is anybody’s guess.

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The Sir Robert Bond Papers: Always ready for a better tomorrow #nlpoli

Ontario and the faltering Conservative administration in Newfoundland and Labrador are talking about the possibility of developing Gull Island to supply Ontario with renewable energy. 

CBC’s online story on Monday said exactly that:

Ontario eyeing Lower Churchill hydroelectric power from Labrador.

But if you listen to what  grim-faced energy minister Derrick Dalley said to CBC’s David Cochrane during the supper hour news on Monday,  there is a lot less to the announcement than first appeared.

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The Sir Robert Bond Papers: That’s gotta suck, big time #nlpoli

All the country’s provincial and territorial leaders – except for Saskatchewan and Nova Scotia – are in Newfoundland and Labrador this week for their annual conference.

What an  opportunity for Paul Davis in an election year.  He gets to show himself off looking all leader-like and premieral or whatever the word is for it.

The first day of the meeting the premiers and territorial leaders discussed aboriginal issues in Goose Bay.  In the afternoon, Davis laid on an all-expense-paid trip to the super exciting megaproject at Muskrat Falls.

And then everything went horribly wrong.

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The Sir Robert Bond Papers: Confidence Builder #nlpoli

The public utilities board asked Liberty Consulting to review Hydro’s decisions in 11 projects.

Hydro is looking for a rate increase.  The board wanted to make sure the increase was justified.

Of the 11 projects, the consultant found:

“Liberty found Hydro’s decisions and actions imprudent in seven of the eleven specific projects or programs set for examination by the Board. Liberty identified adverse cost consequences associated with six of these seven projects or programs, laying a foundation for consideration of the propriety of their recovery from customers. Liberty found planning and execution of the seventh project imprudent, but concluded (Read more…)

The Sir Robert Bond Papers: Way behind schedule #nlpoli

The reports you will likely read in the conventional media all peg the Muskrat Falls project as behind schedule.

That’s what the latest project update from the provincial government and Nalcor says.

The media reports are also citing an overall number that has the project modestly off schedule.

You need to look at the whole report.

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The Sir Robert Bond Papers: The Persistence of False Information: free electricity version #nlpoli

An exchange on Twitter reminded your humble e-scribbler on Wednesday evening of the power of false information to persist despite either being disproven or, in this case, being an obvious nonsense.

Not surprisingly, the discussion was about Nalcor, Emera,  the Maritime Link and a block of electricity that Nalcor gets under the Muskrat Falls deal.  There is a lot of false information about these subjects that just won’t die.  Let’s just deal with the free block of electricity.

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The Sir Robert Bond Papers: Owing it forward #nlpoli

The provincial government will balance its books this year by borrowing $2.1 billion.

Lots of people don’t know that,  as Michael Caine would say.

The government included in its budget plans this year a hike in the HST of two percent.

The tax hike will bring in $200 million.

That $200 million will just about cover the interest in one year on all the new debt the provincial government plans to add between now and 2021.

The $2.1 billion this year is the tip of a very big iceberg of new debt, you see. The new debt will go on top of the other $12 billion we already owe. The total cost just to pay the interest on that debt in 20201 will be $1.0 billion.

When people found out about the HST hike, they lost their minds.

Fast forward to 2017.

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The Sir Robert Bond Papers: A legacy of secrecy and bad deals #nlpoli

In response to questioning in the House of Assembly last Tuesday and Wednesday, natural resources Minister Derrick Dalley confirmed that the provincial government is in secret talks with Norwegian oil giant Statoil to develop a new field offshore Newfoundland.

There’s was nothing in the local media about it until the end of the week when the Premier appeared to chance his position on the talks.

The Telegram’s James McLeod wrote:

Premier Paul Davis says that when he told his natural resources minister to wrap up a major offshore oil deal by the end of the year, he didn’t really mean exactly that.


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The Sir Robert Bond Papers: Nova Scotia won’t get Muskrat Falls electricity #nlpoli

As part of its deal with Nalcor,  Emera will get its electricity from Bay d’Espoir, not Muskrat Falls. 

The Business Post’s March 2015 edition reported that confirmation of the arrangement came from Emera Newfoundland and Labrador chief executive Rick Janega following a speech to the St. John’s Board of Trade on February 23. Janega took the view, though, that the company will get power from whatever source of generation was operating at the time.

As the Business Post reported, the “deal between Nalcor and Emera is not specifically to supply Nova Scotia with Muskrat Falls power, but rather to supply the equivalent of 20 per cent of Muskrat’s generating capacity from any source.”

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The Sir Robert Bond Papers: Gil Bennett: fact checker #nlpoli

Gil Bennett, Nalcor vice-president in charge of the Lower Churchill project, took some exceptions to comments in yesterdays posts on Muskrat Falls and electricity prices.

Rather than go back and deal with his comments in a re-write of the original post, let’s deal with Bennett’s comments here and link the two together so people can get the full effect.

For those of you who didn’t read the original post, go back and do so.  It will help.  In this post, Bennett’s tweets are in bold print.  Your humble e-scribbler’s reply is in regular type.

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The Sir Robert Bond Papers: Nalcor: the power of hubris #nlpoli

On the last electricity bill to arrive Chez Scribbler,  the price per kilowatt hour was a little over 11 cents, all in.

On Wednesday,  Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro applied to the public utilities board for a six percent reduction in electricity rates pending a thorough review of electricity prices now that oil has dropped through the floor.

Nalcor claims that Muskrat Falls is the lowest cost way of meeting electricity demand on the island in the future.  The truth is Nalcor didn’t produce any evidence that they compared potential sources of electricity before they decided to build Muskrat falls in 2006.

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The Sir Robert Bond Papers: Comparative Hydro Costs #nlpoli

Konrad Yakabuski’ s column in the Monday Globe is an interesting one for people in Newfoundland and Labrador for a couple of reasons.  ‘

First of all,  Yakabuski pointed out the “broader credibility problem facing all of Canada’s provincially owned electric utilities.”

Second of all,  for all those people in this province who are complaining that the Liberals won;t release any of their policies before the election, we have had lots of time to debate the energy policy of the current administration for a decade.

For all of that time, the people currently bitching about the lack of policy debate didn’t want to debate that energy policy despite the mounds of evidence that what the provincial government was doing with the former hydro corporation was headed for bad policy.

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The Sir Robert Bond Papers: Muskrat Falls more than $8.3 billion: Nalcor #nlpoli

Prompted by Wednesday’s post on Muskrat Falls costs,  a couple of readers drew your humble e-scribbler’s attention to a tidy little briefing note posted on the Nalcor website. 

It’s not really obvious – some might say it is buried – but if you going looking you can find it and a lot of other useful information.  That’s a shame, really because this little two-pager was far more informative than anything that’s actually come out of the mouths of the Nalcor brass or provincial cabinet ministers.

As it turns out, Ross Wiseman did a bit more than bugger up his fractions.  And your humble e-scribbler was off by a bit in trying to unravel Ross’ version of things, too.

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The Sir Robert Bond Papers: Just do the math: Wiseman confirms Muskrat Falls cost at $7.3 billion #nlpoli

Twitter sometimes produces some gems.

Like on Tuesday when Tom Baird,  a mathematics professor at Memorial pointed out that the province’s finance minister had a wee bit of a problem with basic math.

“Just do the math,”  Ross Wiseman told Liberal leader Dwight Ball during Question Period on Monday.  “ Based on the current projected cost of that project of $6.9 billion, our investment over time, over the life of that project, the construction of that project, will be about $2.3 billion…”.   And that $2.3 billion, according to Wiseman was the 25% investment the provincial government had always said it would put into the Muskrat Falls project.

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The Sir Robert Bond Papers: International expert on key Muskrat Falls feature to deliver public talk #nlpoli

People interested in one of the big geological uncertainties that could affect the Muskrat Falls dam will have a chancer to hear from an international expert later this month.

Dr. Stig Bernander,an international expert on quick clay landslides, will deliver a public talk at the LSPU Hall, on Victoria Street, St John’s at 8 pm Thursday, October 30th.  He will discuss quick clay landslides with particular attention to the North Spur, a key feature of the Muskrat Falls dam project.

Quick clay is clay material deposited under marine conditions upwards of 20,000 years ago.  Exposure to rain (Read more…)

The Sir Robert Bond Papers: The Vision Thing #nlpoli

The St. John’s Board of Trade is about the only business advocacy group in the world that doesn’t actually believe in free enterprise.

The Board doesn’t believe that government should control public debt.  They claim they are worried about it, but in practice the Board will shout with joy the more the government spends.

That sounds ridiculous, but it is true. 

The Board of Trade supports the Muskrat Falls project, for example.  The project involves a massive increase in public debt. There’s no evidence it is the cheapest way to meet the provinces electricity needs.  The only way it can work has been to create a complete monopoly in electricity production in the province that will force locals – including businesses – to bear the full cost plus profit, so that the provincial government’s energy corporation can sell discount electricity everywhere else except inside Newfoundland and Labrador.

The Board . . . → Read More: The Sir Robert Bond Papers: The Vision Thing #nlpoli

The Sir Robert Bond Papers: Nalcor and the Eff In Way #nlpoli

Over at Uncle Gnarley,  JM’s at it again with the first of a two-parter on Nalcor and its problems with forecasting for Muskrat Falls.

Nalcor assumed that they would get 830 megawatts of electricity out of Muskrat Falls in the winter months when demand is highest.  That’s the number they gave everyone else and, as you can tell by the language Nalcor uses, it was an assumption, not a solid forecast.  Now they say they should be able to get 673 MW at Soldier;s Pond from Muskrat Falls.  That’s a difference of 157 MW, not an inconsiderable difference.

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