13 November 2009

What Hydro Quebec gets in the Maritimes

Quebec Premier Jean Charest revealed today that Hydro Quebec has started negotiations to take over electricity delivery on Prince Edward island.

He made the announcement at a major energy conference in Boston that brought together every major actor in the energy business on the north-eastern part of the continent. 

Hot on the heels of news about Hydro Quebec’s deal to buy NB Power, this is hardly surprising. 

Hydro Quebec has seen its revenues from electricity exports shrink by about 30% over last year.  There’s little chance of that rebounding in the near term as the Untied States gropes its way out of a recession.

There’s hardly a better place for Hydro Quebec to go hunting for new customers than New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island.  In both places, electricity rates are in no danger of dropping.  Hydro Quebec has a pile of power and no place to sell it. they’ve also got the cash ready to go.

Sounds like a match made in heaven.

Hydro Quebec has deep enough pockets to buy up the financial mess known as NB Power, deliver electricity rate relief to New Brunswick consumers and make good money when a hunk of Quebec electricity would normally be making a better return somewhere else.

Watch for the same sort of deal in Prince Edward Island.

It works for everyone.  What’s been missing in all the second rate commentary, hype and pure political bullshit flowing in Atlantic Canada these past few weeks is that Hydro Quebec is cutting a straight up business deal in the Maritimes.  They are in business to make money and make money they will.

When the American markets rebound Hydro Quebec will be ready with its existing generating capability, the 8,500 megawatts in development through wind and hydro in Quebec, Point LePreau,  and the hydro in New Brunswick and the wind generation that has been and will be developed in both PEI and New Brunswick.

All of that is considerably closer to American markets than the Lower Churchill.  It will be shipped over existing infrastructure.  Any new power lines that are needed will be shorter and considerably less costly to develop than either new lines through Quebec from Labrador.  let’s not even talk about the so-called Anglo-Saxon route.  It was ludicrously expensive in 1965 and it remains so the better part of a half century later.

There’s no surprise, in all this, that the Newfoundland and Labrador energy corporation and Premier Danny Williams decided to stay away from a meeting of anybody who is anybody in energy in New England and Eastern Canada.

Not only would there be the embarrassment of being in the room for Charest’s announcement, they’d also have to spend two days with a bunch of people who know the real score on the Lower Churchill.  These people just don’t have the time or the inclination to have smoke blown up their backsides.  They’ve got better things to do.

No surprise either that the same day the big news breaks in Boston, the provincial government here announced a one day junket to New York to talk about an imaginary future energy project  and other what-ifs with an unknown group of people.  They’ll turn out for the free nosh, if nothing else, and back home the locals can just cover this as if it was news.

Hydro Quebec went to the Maritimes and it’s been picking up assets, customers and future earning potential on both sides of the border along the way.

Danny, Kathy and Ed are going to New York for a few hours.

Bet they won’t come back with much more than a few souvenir pictures of Danny, Ed, Kathy and Liz standing in front of the Ed Sullivan Theatre.

800px-Ed_Sullivan_Theatre_NYC_2007 It’s right around the corner from the Hilton on Avenue of the Americas.