14 August 2010

Fact Check: the mainstream and Williams/Quebec

The following quotes all appeared in recent media stories about Danny Williams’s comments on energy developments and Quebec.

Neither of them is true.

1.  Montreal Gazette:  “…after Quebec's energy regulator refused to grant a request from Nalcor Energy, Newfoundland's energy corporation, for capacity on the Quebec power grid.’

2. CBC:  “particularly after regulators in Quebec in May dismissed Nalcor's bid to move power to U.S. markets on Quebec's transmission system.”

3.  Telegram (Transcontinental):  “after Quebec’s energy regulator decided not to grant Nalcor Energy’s request for capacity on the Quebec power grid.”

Here’s what actually happened:

NALCOR started talks with Hydro-Quebec’s energy transmission division on access to the Quebec grid in order to transmit power from the future Lower Churchill project.  HQ conducted studies based on the route and load options NALCOR indicated it was interested in studying. The goal of the studies were to determine whether capacity existed on the existing infrastructure to handle the new demand or if the companies (NACLOR and HQ) would have to build new transmission lines.

Premier Danny Williams has consistently stated that NALCOR would pay reasonable prices for transmission including the construction of new transmission facilities.

HQ completed the studies and informed NALCOR of the results.

NALCOR submitted five complaints to the Regie de l’energie for adjudication.  None of these was an application for access to the Quebec grid.

Among other things, NALCOR sought to stop the clock on timelines under Quebec’s open access tariff rules that give a company with power to ship 45 days to either book the space or to signal an intention to book the space.

As well, NACLOR sought a ruling on what was including in the Quebec management grid.  One effect of the ruling on one appeal, if NALCOR had been successful, would have been to displace existing power generation and transmission from Churchill Falls in favour of non-existent Lower Churchill power. 

NALCOR lost each of the five appeals.  None of the decisions prevented NALCOR from proceeding with acquiring space on the Quebec grid.

The Regie did not, at any time, refuse to grant, decide not to grant or dismiss NALCOR’s bid for access to the grid.

As it appears, NALCOR opted for its appeals because it did not have a project and power to transmit, nor did it have a prospect of developing it within the time frames originally proposed.  It opted instead for administrative delay tactics. 

In June 2010, Danny Williams told the House of Assembly that NALCOR did not pursue other contracts for transmission at the time  “because we did not have any power to sell.”

Earlier that same month, Williams confirmed that the Lower Churchill is up in the air indefinitely.  The Telegram buried the comment  - a nugget of hard news - at the end of another story.

However, when it did have power to sell, NALCOR successfully concluded a contract to wheel power through the Quebec grid.  At the time – April 2009 – Danny Williams declared that the transmission deal was historic as it opened the way for future developments. The NALCOR appeals to the Regie de l’energie predated the April 2009 deal.

The facts of the Regie decisions on NALCOR appeals are contained clearly in the decision of the Regie on NALCOR”s appeals. They are available in English and French from the provincial natural resources department’s website as well as from the Regie de l’energie in French.

It is understandable that mainland reporters might rely on other news reports without checking the details.

It is inexplicable why local reporters continue to make false statements when the correct information is right in front of their faces as to what actually took place.

- srbp -