09 August 2010

NALCOR: the power of constipation

Supposedly all we need is to know that the provincial government’s energy corporation, d.b.a. NALCOR, is “aligned” and will take all the time it needs in order to arrive at a “quality decision” on whether or not to install emission control equipment on its diesel generating plant at Holyrood.

For now, let’s leave three things out of this discussion.

First, this isn’t the place to rehash the nonsense which is NALCOR’s two, inherently contradictory position on Holyrood.

Second, and related to that, let’s not draw too much attention to the fact that NALCOR chief executive Ed Martin’s proposed solution to the $600 million cost of cleaning up Holyrood’s act is a multi-billion dollar pair of hydroelectric dams in Labrador and a giant set of power lines, the lines by themselves estimated to cost more than three times the scrubber cost, that will stretch out to the Avalon.

And third, let’s not note that NALCOR’s own capital plant maintains that Holyrood will have to continue running for the next two decades at at least one quarter to one third its capacity.  In other words, it won’t be shutting down at all.  As such, NALCOR will have to spend the $600 million or so in order to reduce noxious emissions from the plant regardless of whether the Great White Whale gets built or not.

Why Ed Martin and his boss, the Old Man, continue to pack around about this and bullshit the people of the province is beyond rational comprehension.

Instead of that, let us focus Martin’s suggestion that maybe some new types of generation might allow NALCOR the dirty power at Holyrood with some nice clean stuff. That might be cheaper, sez Martin than the environmental cleaners.

For starters, Martin is already sitting on juice to help replace Holyrood.  He got it as a gift from Danny in December 2008.  The only problem – apparently  - is that the interconnection between the Avalon and the rest of the island cannot carry the whole load. 

NALCOR needs some cash to make things happen. NALCOR has the cash, of course, or the capacity to borrow it, thanks to some generous gifts of public money  - yours and mine – courtesy of the Old Man and his crowd. The company is in a nifty position, frankly, since they get to play at being an oil company without having to pay all the costs.  NALCOR won’t pay the owners of the resource  - you and me - a penny in royalty for the oil we’ve given then.  We get the liability and the cost.  Martin and his crowd get the cash.

Pretty sweet deal, if anyone is asking.  And frankly, given the generosity of the current administration with resources and cash – yours and mine - it wouldn’t be too much if you and me expected Martin to install the cleansers and the new line most ricky tick.  He can spare us the bullshit and just get on with the job.

But it is when Martin mentions wind energy that he turns from a purveyor of  annoying bullshit to profound disingenuousness.

As Martin knows, this province has the smallest amount of wind power installed or under development of any province in the country.  It is a mere 54 megawatts in two sites. Tiny Prince Edward Island has more than twice that already on the go.  In short, this province, the one the Old Man and his retinue proclaim as a current and future energy warehouse is so far back in the field that it is not even close to being able to see the far distant ass the of the last place contender for the Crown.

There are two reasons for that.  Assuming that Martin read the Lower Churchill environmental applications he already knows that there is actually no reason to build the LC if the main reason is shipping power to St. John’s.  There’s really no need for additional generating capacity and, as it stands, NALCOR can now reduce Holyrood to virtually nil capacity.

As for the rest of the province, that is, the largest bit of it, the reason there are no wind farms under consideration is simply because NALCOR and the province don’t want them.  Official government policy subordinates any new generation, from small hydro to wind, to the Great White Whale project.

Put another way, innovation is dead as a doornail in Newfoundland and Labrador. The provincial government’s energy policy is working against the best interests of the people of the province.

Ed Martin’s comments to CBC recently could just as easily have been summarised with a parody of the old Mexican bandito line:  “Innovation?  We dun need no stinkin’ innovation.” Martin merely affirmed the power of constipation that afflicts the administration and its energy company, at least when it comes to innovation and energy.

- srbp -