09 April 2009

NB grid booked up

The New Brunswick electricity is booked, with only 310 megawatts of capacity expected to come free in 2015, according to the Telegraph Journal.

Preliminary studies of the New Brunswick system commissioned by Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro  show that while the existing grid could handle power from the Lower Churchill, the booked capacity  - particularly across the New Brunswick to Maine intertie - is “the limiting factor.”

"When you reach an intertie and it is fully booked, fully reserved, you need to reach an agreement with one of the holders of the capacity," said Sylvain Gignac, the president of the NBSO [New Brunswick System Operator], which polices the province's transmission lines.

"It will be tough without building new transmission, except if they reach a deal with one of the biggest holders, which are Hydro-Québec Energy Marketing (HQ Energy Marketing Inc.) and New Brunswick Power (NB Power)."

In the current configuration, Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro would have to cut a deal with an existing user to ship what the Telegraph Journal says would be 740 megawatts through New Brunswick.

The alternative would be to build new capacity.  Nova Scotia-based Emera is reportedly looking at a new connection from Canada into the New England market.

In an interview with the Telegraph Journal, Hydro chief executive Ed Martin repeated the standard Hydro forecast: 

Commercial customers in Newfoundland and Labrador could take on some of Lower Churchill's power, Martin said, adding that the closure of a thermal generator could free up a greater need for the project's power there.

But New England remains the No. 1 market for the company.

"We would certainly target there but we're in business and anywhere we have a need that we can fulfill, we're going to consider that," Martin said.

Martin did not disclose what customers those might be.  Environmental impact documents for the Lower Churchill project do include a demand forecast that shows a domestic need for power from the Muskrat Falls and Gull Island sites.  As well, the thermal plant at Holyrood will be maintained in operation – not closed as suggested in Martin’s comment – to help manage the transmission of power from the Lower Churchill.

Hydro seems to be counting on Emera to add to the capacity across the international border.  The recent deal between Hydro and Emera that sees the latter buy power from Hydro could well be part of a much larger, developing relationship between the two companies.