01 August 2010

Holyrood pollution and the Great White Whale

According to the Telegram, Holyrood town council is expected to vote this week to ask the provincial energy company and the provincial government to follow through on commitments to reduce emissions from the thermal generating plant at Holyrood.

The problem both for the town is that it is stuck accepting NALCOR’s own contradictory statements on Holyrood.

On the one hand you have the statement contained in the provincial energy plan.  Under that version, the company would either install scrubbers and precipitators to deal with emissions or  - as a NALCOR spokesperson told the Telegram - “displace existing fossil fuel generation at the Holyrood generating station.”

But as Bond Papers readers know, Holyrood will be a crucial part of the NALCOR system no matter what.  This is not an either/or proposition.  The scrubbers and precipitators will have to be installed.  Even if the heavens open, miracles happen and NALCOR builds the Lower Churchill anytime in the next two decades, NALCOR plans to keep Holyrood on stream.

You don’t just have to believe your old e-scribbler.  Here’s exactly how NALCOR described it:

It is important to consider that whichever expansion scenario occurs, an isolated Island electrical system or interconnected to the Lower Churchill via HVDC link, Holyrood will be an integral and vital component of the electrical system for decades to come. In the isolated case Holyrood will continue to be a generating station; in the interconnected scenario its three generating units will operate as synchronous condensers, providing system stability, inertia and voltage control.

Things don’t get any better, by the by, if you try and follow Calamity Kathy Dunderdale’s version of things.

What seems to be going on here is pretty simple.  NALCOR and the Premier are obsessed with a hydro megaproject that they just can’t build.  Everything else is being held hostage by that obsession.

For example, power from central Newfoundland can’t be used to replace Holyrood since the connection to the Avalon can’t bear the added load NALCOR won’t upgrade that transmission capacity unless the LC goes ahead.  At the same time, NALCOR won’t pursue alternative generation – like say wind power – because it is fixated on the Lower Churchill.  This sort of stuff is well laid out in the LC environmental review documents. 

And if that weren’t bad enough a decades old moratorium on small hydro projects remains in place. The 2007 energy plan committed government to lift it or keep it in place in 2009, the year they were supposed to start the Lower Churchill.

Guess what?

That decision is held up, as well, because the Great White Whale remains just out of Ahab’s grasp.

So if the Holyrood town council wants to get their local air improved, the first thing they need to do is toss aside the bumpf coming from the provincial government and NALCOR about the Lower Churchill.

Instead, they need to hold NALCOR to the statements in its 20 year capital plan.

And that means they need to come up with a timetable to install emission reduction equipment on the facility that NALCOR says will be a vital part of its system for decades to come.

- srbp -