09 September 2009

Cross Rhode Island off the power purchase list

Remember the missing memorandum of understanding with Rhode Island that was supposed to study shipping a couple of hundred megawatts of power from the Lower Churchill if nit gets built?

Yeah, it’s been missing in action for two years.

Well, it turns out that the whole process discovered that Rhode Island can’t handle the power. That little gem came up during Question Period in the emergency legislature session:

They found out that they did not have the capacity to negotiate a long-term power purchase agreement with Nalcor on behalf of the Province. Nor were they able, in their Legislature, to do the regulatory changes that were required in order to wheel electricity into the state. Therefore, Mr. Speaker, we learned a lot through that discussion but it was not possible and we have moved on because other customers are in a position to be able to do business with Newfoundland and Labrador.

The only problem with that answer is that  - like many things natural resources minister Kathy Dunderdale says - it doesn’t make sense.

First of all, the MOU was supposed to "develop and action plan to address any technical or regulatory requirements.  Throwing up hands and calling things off wasn’t supposed to be an option.

Second of all, while Rhode Island has a limited capacity to get power into the state, that was known at the time the MOU was signed.

Third of all, there’s a plan to deal with that.

Fourth of all, Rhode Island, as a state of the union like all the rest, has the legislative competence in the state legislature to make rules about energy.  They’ve been doing it for years.

This sounds a lot like Dunderdale’s efforts to discuss energy wheeling through New Brunswick on Tuesday when she kept talking about applications in front of something she called the “Ray-zhay”.  The “ray-zhee” is the Quebec energy regulator.

But wait.

It gets better.

When asked what other customers the province’s energy geniuses were talking to, Dunderdale listed off provinces and states that are on everyone’s list of potential customers.  The implication of Dunderdale’s answer was that none of them were likely customers.

And that gentle readers is the problem with this project:  there are no customers on tap. 


Techie update:  An e-mail from someone who knows these things advises that interstate transmission is regulated by a federal agency – FERC – which would be the same one that enables Canadian provinces to wheel power to places like New York.

Any Canadian province should be able to wheel power across several states provided it pays the appropriate costs and can, therefore, get it to the customer at a reasonable cost.