UPDATED: Premier insists province isn't in crisis

James
James McLeod
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Says rolling blackouts are proof of need for Muskrat Falls

With the province entering the fourth day of rolling blackouts, tens of thousands of Newfoundlanders without power, and the prospect of a strained electrical grid for weeks to come, Premier Kathy Dunderdale assured the people Sunday afternoon that there's no crisis, and things are under control.

Premier Kathy Dunderdale — Telegram file photo

What's more, Dunderdale warned that due to aging infrastructure and higher demand for electricity, these sorts of outages could become more common between now and 2017, when the Muskrat Falls hydroelectic dam is built.

“There's a critical period that we need to get through until we have a new source of power, new infrastructure, and more than anything else we have redundancy,” she told reporters Sunday afternoon. “After 2017 hopefully we'll never find yourself in this kind of circumstance again because of the redundancy that will be built into the system.”

Dunderdale tied the current outages directly to the Muskrat Falls project, saying that the failure at Holyrood proves that the aging power plant has outlived its usefulness and needs to be replaced by Muskrat Falls.

“We've talked incessantly, it seems to me, over the last number of years about the aging facility in Holyrood and the fact that that facility needed to be replaced,” she said.

Despite insisting that there was no crisis, Dunderdale – flanked by electrical utility brass and ministers – begged the people of the province to do everything in their power to conserve electricity, or risk further blackouts.

“Everybody has a role to play in this,” Dunderdale said. “You know, if you're not using a room in a house, turn off the heat, turn off the lights. You know, you might want to do your dishes by hand over the next few days.”

Problems with the Holyrood power plant, along with two smaller gas power plants in St. John's and Stephenville, forced Nalcor to scale back electrical generation and triggered rolling blackouts. Then, when there was a fire in the Sunnyside transformer station, the situation got much, much worse.

The failure placed 190,000 customers in the dark, and left most of the province without power Saturday morning.

One customer is one home or business, so the actual number of people affected by the outages was much higher. Most of those people had at least some electricity back by Sunday afternoon.

Earl Ludlow, CEO of Newfoundland Power, pleaded with people to use the minimum amount of electricity possible in the next few days.

“Conserve, conserve, conserve. And that means, turn the heat back,” he said. “Close the door and turn off the heat in a room. Defer washing dishes.”

Essentially all of the problems come back to a lack of generating capacity by Nalcor subsidiary NL Hydro. Ed Martin, CEO of Nalcor, said that the crown corporation was hit by a raft of problems it couldn't predict.

He said it's never possible to guarantee 100 per cent reliability, and that taking the long view, he's still satisfied that people see very few interruptions in electrical service.

“I see ourselves operating at this point still within a range that is perfectly acceptable over time,” he said. “From a system reliability point of view, we'll probably talk more about that later. Right now our focus is on people of the province – getting the power back on as quickly and efficiently as possible.”

Like Dunderdale, he said that Holyrood just isn't solid anymore, and it needs to be replaced.

“Honestly, I can't promise the same reliability coming out of a Holyrood that we may have done and had 15 years or 10 years or even 5 years ago,” he said.

Speaking to reporters Sunday, Martin said he won't likely know until some time Monday when Holyrood will be running anywhere close to full capacity, or when other gas turbines will be back to full function.

Both opposition parties called for an independent investigation into it all.

Liberal Leader Dwight Ball said he believes there are infrastructure upgrades that could have been done to avert this disaster.

“Was this something that we saw coming, or is this something that was created by this so-called culmination of events?” he asked.

New Democrat Leader Lorraine Michael called for a full-blown public inquiry conducted by the Public Utilities Board. She said she was astounded that Dunderdale doesn't see the current situation as a crisis.

“We have a crisis when we cannot meet peak moments during the year. And whether that peak moment is December of February, we know that peak moment is going to be there, and we should be planning for it,” she said. “One of the things that I'm demanding of the premier right now is that the minute this crisis is over, that she puts this in the hands of the PUB for a public inquiry so people can really get answers for the questions.”

 

jmcleod@thetelegram.com

Twitter: TelegramJames

 

 

 

Earlier story:

Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Kathy Dunderdale said that the current electricity situation in the province isn't a crisis, and that workers are doing everything they can to deal with the "challenges."

Dunderdale said the current issues are tied to aging infrastructure, and until the Muskrat Falls project is built, these challenges could continue through until 2017.

The message right now from all officials is that conservation is key, and rolling blackouts will likely continue at least until Tuesday. 

"Conserve, conserve, conserve," said Newfoundland Power boss Earl Ludlow. He said every light turned off and every degree the thermostat is turned down helps.

Nalcor CEO Ed Martin said they're working as hard as they can to bring all generating capacity up to maximum and he asked for more time.

But both Martin and Dunderdale said with aging infrastructure at Holyrood and throughout the province, until Muskrat Falls is built, system reliability could be an issue.

Dunderdale said the shaky status of Holyrood is a big part of the reason they're building Muskrat Falls.

Education Minister Clyde Jackman said no decision has been made on whether schools will open Monday. He said that announcement will likely come by 3pm.

Organizations: Newfoundland Power

Geographic location: Holyrood

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Recent comments

  • Robert byrne
    January 06, 2014 - 12:33

    People are without power and can't do basic day to day things, water,heat...but yet they are having hockey games in St.johns ....guess Dumderdale don't see that as a crisis ...and a note to the now premier of NL....you had nothing to do with the development of muskrat fall.....Danny Williams had that in place before he left office...so Dumderdale stop taking the credit.....Danny needs to come outta retirement !

  • Robert byrne
    January 06, 2014 - 12:31

    People are without power and can't do basic day to day things, water,heat...but yet they are having hockey games in St.johns ....guess Dumderdale don't see that as a crisis ...and a note to the now premier of NL....you had nothing to do with the development of muskrat fall.....Danny Williams had that in place before he left office...so Dumderdale stop taking the credit.....Danny needs to come outta retirement !

  • P. Norman
    January 06, 2014 - 10:43

    If what we have now cannot supply the province, what will happen to us when Dannyville gets on the go? Is going to buy a giant generator? Also remember the Ant and the Grasshopper? Lots of grasshoppers in this govt. !!

  • Barrie Hall
    January 06, 2014 - 10:27

    Someone isn't looking to get reelected.

  • roger sheppard
    January 06, 2014 - 09:17

    i bet dunderdale got power though !!!

  • John
    January 06, 2014 - 08:53

    Kathy Dunderdale, political opportunist. Down in the polls her future rather dubious while the rest of us pile blankets on the to keep warm in these unusually cold temperatures. Trying to get political points by saying that's why we need Muskrat Fall shame on you Premier. We want the power turned on and stop with the rhetoric.....

  • Grace
    January 06, 2014 - 08:16

    Out(r)rage.

  • Peter
    January 06, 2014 - 07:28

    Hard to believe this province has a very large hydro development that can supply power to Quebec and the eastern seaboard , but it's lights out at home . Since confederation , the premier's have done nothing but give away our resources . Now we can't even keep the lights on . I guess with nothing left , pride is the last to go . NF does need a government that rides the wave , they need one that makes the wave .

    • Peter
      January 06, 2014 - 08:14

      Hard to believe this province has a very large hydro development that can supply power to Quebec and the eastern seaboard , but it's lights out at home . Since confederation , the premier's have done nothing but give away our resources . Now we can't even keep the lights on . I guess with nothing left , pride is the last to go . NF does not need a government that rides the wave , they need one that makes the wave .

  • brad
    January 06, 2014 - 07:11

    Not that the others would do any better,but I have never seen a Premier continually put their foot way in her mouth,cant she help it or??And yes that's a real question.

  • Chantal
    January 06, 2014 - 06:41

    This situation is all about money and lining the pockets of our politicians and shareholders of Nalcor. They don't care that people are cold and losing money due to trying to reheat a frigid house and replacing spoiled food. Muskrat Falls is in the distant future, my question is what are they going to do NOW to keep people safe?

  • Rob
    January 06, 2014 - 00:24

    Is it true that Blunderdale only got back in the province this morning and was not even here when she said she was. Kathy you wouldn't tell a lie would u. If we are not in a crisis why is thousands of people without power and your bringing in outside help to assist with fixing the problems. The biggest problem we got is we have without a doubt the dumbest person alive as our premier. How this woman even got a job at all is a travesty. As someone said earlier Blunderdale would not run a lemonade stand. Blunderdale you are soon gone and I hope the police escort you out of Confederation Building when your time is up. We got a crisis in NL it's the dumbest person alive speaking on our behalf. We are the laughing stock of Canada once again.

  • holly
    January 05, 2014 - 22:07

    this women shouldn't be primer at all sorry but that's how I thin shes telling people not to worrie but they had to ask P.E.I to come over and help with the power please people when come time to elected aging don't for this women can she don't no what shes doing shes wrong all she cares about is money and her self

  • bill
    January 05, 2014 - 21:50

    "Rolling blackouts are a common or even a normal daily event in many developing countries where electricity generation capacity is underfunded or infrastructure is poorly managed. Rolling blackouts in developed countries are rare because demand is accurately forecasted, adequate infrastructure investment is scheduled and networks are well managed; such events are considered an unacceptable failure of planning and can cause significant political damage to responsible governments.

    • InCB
      January 06, 2014 - 11:09

      So what happened with the rolling black outs on the mainland last summer during the heat wave that affected ON and others? They are becoming more and more common everywhere as we all keep on plugging in.

  • bill
    January 05, 2014 - 21:49

    "Rolling blackouts are a common or even a normal daily event in many developing countries where electricity generation capacity is underfunded or infrastructure is poorly managed. Rolling blackouts in developed countries are rare because demand is accurately forecasted, adequate infrastructure investment is scheduled and networks are well managed; such events are considered an unacceptable failure of planning and can cause significant political damage to responsible governments.

  • CS
    January 05, 2014 - 21:42

    The big question is why Nalcor played with the chance of not repairing Holyrood for a full year? Did they take a chance on a mild winter... did they take a chance that nothing like the fire at Holyrood would happen... With the boom in housing, record lows and a fire appears to have proven they risked too much at the cost of the public safety and welfare. We should have a full inquiry on this.

  • kathy burford
    January 05, 2014 - 21:34

    Hey, its not the workers who are trying their best. I blame the present government who was so short cited about being prepared for this kind of winter crisis. Shame, shame shame. Your government leadership has made some very bad decisions that have lead to hardship for great people in your province. Step aside and let better, competent people prevail.

  • tony
    January 05, 2014 - 20:49

    Obviously Dunderdale has lost all her sensibilities and ability to look at the broader situation. Someone has been either lying to her about the dire future for our electrical system, or she is involved in the cover-up. Either way, her days are numbered....and hopefully so are Martin's. These individuals are paid big bucks to be "Forward" thinkers. They can't even learn from the mistakes of the past. How can we expect them to plan for the future?

  • tony
    January 05, 2014 - 20:48

    Obviously Dunderdale has lost all her sensibilities and ability to look at the broader situation. Someone has been either lying to her about the dire future for our electrical system, or she is involved in the cover-up. Either way, her days are numbered....and hopefully so are Martin's. These individuals are paid big bucks to be "Forward" thinkers. They can't even learn from the mistakes of the past. How can we expect them to plan for the future?

  • Corporate Psycho
    January 05, 2014 - 19:50

    Let them watch hockey.

  • Just Plain Direspectful
    January 05, 2014 - 19:35

    So here we are at the annual peak power demand period in NL and the facilities that are supposed to supply the peak demand aren't available. This isn't a demand problem, it's a supply problem. By letting this happen it's become clear to me that that the Dunderdale government, Nalcor and NL Power have no respect for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.

  • Just Plain Direspectful
    January 05, 2014 - 19:33

    So here we are at the annual peak power demand period in NL and the facilities that are supposed to supply the peak demand aren't available. This isn't a demand problem, it's a supply problem. By letting this happen it's become clear to me that that the Dunderdale government, Nalcor and NL Power have no respect for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.

  • Just Plain Direspectful
    January 05, 2014 - 19:30

    So here we are at the annual peak power demand period in NL and the facilities that are supposed to supply the peak demand aren't available. This isn't a demand problem, it's a supply problem. By letting this happen it's become clear to me that that the Dunderdale government, Nalcor and NL Power have no respect for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.

  • Jacklyn Adams
    January 05, 2014 - 18:47

    If it's not a crisis, then why did they have to ask another province for help?

  • christina marsh
    January 05, 2014 - 18:40

    To the persons who decided this was a brilliant idea to go open the malls & go ahead with the hockey game instead of thinking about the people who need it like sick ppl at home on oxygen, sick children & ppl with babies. if newfounfland got power outages then the business around town should have power outages too

  • Randy
    January 05, 2014 - 18:31

    NDP is having a fancy fundraiser at MUN tomorrow night. Classes closed down but lots of electricity for Lorraine's fundraiser? How about a full-blown public inquiry into that?

  • jon
    January 05, 2014 - 18:19

    Everyone all up in arms over mile one going ahead with the Ice Caps game.....you just as mad at mcdonalds or Tim Hortons being open as you type on your plugged in computer.

    • Joe
      January 06, 2014 - 07:33

      The stores probably use propane. Mile One is another thing. Dan is the Man.

    • Robert byrne
      January 06, 2014 - 12:41

      Your an idiot ....do you know how much power it takes to run that centre!....you must have power!

    • Robert byrne
      January 06, 2014 - 12:44

      Your an idiot ....do you know how much power it takes to run that centre!....you must have power!

  • Maurice E. Adams
    January 05, 2014 - 17:46

    Nalcor's Ed Martin says that bringing in unused power from the western part of the island would not have worked even if we had another transmission line because it is the "system" that is maxed out....... On Thursday Nalcor's Dawn Daley said we reached an all time maximum demand approaching 1,550 megawatts. However, as far back as 2001 Nalcor forecast an Island Peak Demand (MW) for year 2013 of 1,786 MW..... If they knew 13 years ago that our peak demand would exceed 1,550 MW, why was the "system" not upgraded LONG BEFORE NOW? Of course, we actually reached well in excess of 1,550 MW in years 2002, 03, 04, 05 and 2009. Obfuscation, half truths, and deceit ---- nothing less. Nalcor's own document filed with the PUB in 2011 (Exhibit 103) refers.

    • Calvin
      January 06, 2014 - 08:12

      Hahahaha, Maurice you are such a joke. Now you are bawling that NL government should have upgraded our power system.... WHAT DO YOU THINK MUSKRAT FALLS IS?!?!?!

  • Joe Cooper
    January 05, 2014 - 16:46

    Seems to me that everyone from the Premier to the head of Nfld Light & Power, to the head of Nfld.& Labrador Hydro, saw this coming and did nothing to prevent it. I guess it was a case of we will show them we need Muskrat Falls!!!!

  • Former Tory Supporter
    January 05, 2014 - 16:39

    Little wonder that Dunderdale's handlers would have advised her against appearing in public, given her propensity for opening mouth and inserting foot. And she certainly didn't disappoint this time around with her bold statement that this 'wasn't a criss'. How out of touch is this woman with reality - with the people she is supposed to serve. The only thing worse than listening to her downplay this major f-up, was listening to the twerp she put in charge of emergencies - Little Stevie Wonder!

  • Teraceta
    January 05, 2014 - 16:33

    This NL gov is a joke. Run mile one and the gov offices on a Sunday. Leaving residents still in the dark. Because of the outage I've got a big hole in my kitchen ceiling from busted pipes. I can't get a contractor to start the repairs until the power comes back. But i bet Kathy blubberdale didn't lose her power or get cold. Just a big fat joke

    • Brad
      January 06, 2014 - 07:30

      NL govt doesn't run mile one genius. Try again.

  • darrell
    January 05, 2014 - 16:19

    Hey Kathy....welcome back from your vacation in the sunny south. Hope we didn't disrupt your lifestyle too much.

  • B Morgan
    January 05, 2014 - 16:15

    Aging infrastructure?? SO! Does that mean anything over 40 has to go? Rumor has it that Bay D'espoir has the capacity to generate more power, BUT we don't have the line capacity to get it to the Avalon. So it doesn't matter if you build a dozen muskrat falls, there's no line to carry it.

  • Brian
    January 05, 2014 - 16:10

    What a Leader,what a representative of our province, what a politician . Wow we sure are lucky!!

  • Virginia Waters
    January 05, 2014 - 15:47

    If this was a war - and in many ways it resembles one - then all the soldiers should be honoured and all the generals should be shot. Such has been the abysmal leadership - nay gross negligence - of the people in charge of this province and in charge of our electrical generating systems. The commander-in-chief has been holed up in her bunker since the first skirmish - only sticking her head out today after the level of public disgust reached an all time high. So sad we have to wait another two years before we can rid ourselves of this government.

  • anon
    January 05, 2014 - 15:43

    totally unbelievable,,talk about the deer in headlight look,,,,blame it on everything else praise up muskrat falls,,my god there is a crisis with nl hydro and this gov.,,they should have resigned at the news conference to give nflder's some satisfaction,,election 2015 can't come soon enough,,

  • Bernard Davis
    January 05, 2014 - 15:43

    Can you assign a reporter to get Mile One to explain exactly why they went ahead with game today? The cost of powering the arena is incredible and the optics are very poor when residents are being asked to conserve, 25k people out of power, schools closed for extra days and so on. Ask the AHL exactly their rules for game play - they make exceptions for games all the time for weather conditions - the worse is a fine for not going ahead with it. Look into this please. Just not right. If there is some sort of generator, which I doubt, what is the overall cost to city taxpayers?

    • Joe
      January 06, 2014 - 07:51

      Danny Breen the financial whiz probably hasn't heard about "force major". But then he has his full Council pension in his back pocket so why worry about those dumb residents.

  • Pam Patey
    January 05, 2014 - 15:19

    Think this lady made a "BLUNDER" or two before

  • Steve
    January 05, 2014 - 15:16

    Conserve? Why so a hockey game can go ahead down at mile one? How many houses would that light if off. Kenmount road businesses all alight even when closed how many homes would that heat. Can go on and on

  • sc
    January 05, 2014 - 15:09

    First, I'd like to thank all the folks that worked to get the power back on. I sure wouldn't want to be working outside in the weather we had yesterday. However, I do hope that the executives at Nalcor and NL Hydro resign their positions and take up employment more in line with their level of expertise -- running a lemonade stand for example. How could these people allow the infrastructure for which they're responsible to become so unreliable and fragile? Holyrood had problems early last year and though it seems some were fixed, others were not. Having generators running at 40-50% in the middle of the winter is hardly evidence of competent management. Dunderdale has once again proven how out of touch she really is with the average person and how much she is willing to coddle big business. How dare she tell those people that have had no power or heat that this was/is merely a 'challenge' and not a crisis. I'd suggest that the inability of this allegedly modern province to provide its residence with reliable electricity is very much a crisis. It's a crisis caused by a negligent and incompetent government, and inept and indifferent company officials. The result is that many people's lives have been needlessly put at risk from those who are left in cold, unheated homes to the workers who have to try and fix this mess. This is far more than a 'challenge'. Nalcor CEO's comments that they're working as hard as they can is all fine and good. If this is the best that he can offer it is proof that his best simply isn't good enough.

  • Lloyd
    January 05, 2014 - 14:56

    So does that mean that Dunderdale/Martin are including ALL the upgrades to ALL the branch lines with the Muskrat project? Aren't we of the understanding that the major power line from Muskrat to Soldier's Pond is the only line included in the Muskrat budget? Isn't it also true that the biggest impediment to 'Island self-sufficiency' is less about supply (already in place) than it is about line capacity?

  • Lloyd
    January 05, 2014 - 14:53

    So does that mean that Dunderdale/Martin are including ALL the upgrades to ALL the branch lines with the Muskrat project? Aren't we of the understanding that the major power line from Muskrat to Soldier's Pond is the only line included in the Muskrat budget? Isn't it also true that the biggest impediment to 'Island self-sufficiency' is less about supply (already in place) than it is about line capacity?

  • Kim
    January 05, 2014 - 14:33

    I wonder if these blackouts are intensional to get people behind the project.

  • Ranter
    January 05, 2014 - 14:30

    Too much development in the name of greed and dunderbuddies. What a vision - muskrat will fix everything but in the meantime buy a generator, pay extra for electricity and wait till 2017. Thats the type of planning that deserves someone to be fired.

  • al mallay
    January 05, 2014 - 14:22

    The biggest reason for most of the trouble is there is never nothing done with anything until it breaks. That is not maintenance , and i hope they do not think this is the way to save money. some one sitting in a office that knows nothing about maintenance,are making the the calls and they are only want to save money so no maintenance to be done this year. same reason why they did not fuel in gand bank all comes down to the dollar

  • TMc
    January 05, 2014 - 14:16

    So will you be making sure big businesses are conserving??

  • Issheinsane
    January 05, 2014 - 14:13

    Like my name says...Is she insane. This total fiasco with power is the fault of he gov't....diverging money elsewhere, when she damn wel new the old infrastructure needed help. Bye...Bye Kathy

  • Bert
    January 05, 2014 - 13:57

    Just as some are ready to put bill 29 on the backburner she shoots herself in the foot again. Even if only one person wanted to hear from her and not half a million she should not have waited until day 3 or 4 to speak to the province. You know I was one of the minority who was among the undecided. Not anymore, Premier you have worn out your welcome!!!

  • Duane
    January 05, 2014 - 13:41

    I cannot accept the attitude or opinion of the premier. How long has Holyrood and the other sus stations been out of service? When were the parts ordered? Why are none of the officals commenting on that? The truth of the matter i would hazard to guess is that they have been in need of repair for quite some time. Billions being spent on these new projects while at the same time no maitenance program in place for current infrastructure. Why is Holyrood only operating at 40%? What is the timeline to have it back to full capacity? When will the ordered parts be here? All basic project management people! Unacceptable and someone owes the public who are paying for these services not only an answer but apologies as well. It is time officials, elected and otherwise be held accountable.that is why they receive huge compensation packages.

  • Muskrat
    January 05, 2014 - 13:34

    Oh no, here comes the tinfoil hat crowd.

  • Robert Scott
    January 05, 2014 - 13:04

    So, what is it you do with aging infrastructure??? You replace it or keep it in good repair. If the sewage system in St. John 's is aging, do you wait until the system collapses??? Do you wait until taps are turned on and no water comes out??? No, or if you do, you should be considered criminal. Hmmmm........any room at HMP to fit in Dunderdale and Martin I wonder?

  • Not falling for the spin
    January 05, 2014 - 12:54

    'Dunderdale said the shakey status of Holyrood is a big reason they're building Muskrat Falls' What a load of bunk. What's that, the 10'th different rationale this government has floated for building their white elephant? A generating station over 1000 km's from its largest customer base isn't going to fix the problems that have caused this outage. Contrary to the premier's poo-poohing, this is a crisis - the distribution and regulating infrastructure is in a pathetic state. No amount of additional generation will fix that.

  • Colin Skinner
    January 05, 2014 - 12:42

    Ms Priemier, I really REALLY hope you read this ! My fellow EMS co worker just lost his home. Major damage done due to water pipes freezing and collapsing, HOW CAN YOU NOT CALL THIS A CRISIS? Do you even have a clue at all ? I welcome your response or better yet, lack of an intelligent response, avoiding the main issues as usual and giving everyone BS answers as usual. I AM DONE with the entire PC Party !!! You are on borrowed time !!!