Power demand runs high in midst of confusion over limits
Newfoundland residents and business owners were thanked Wednesday by Crown corporation and power-providing utility Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro for their continued efforts to conserve power.
Today, the island is entering the final day of a requested three-day energy conservation period in the midst of a winter cold snap.
According to Hydro, even with conservation efforts, demand on that utility’s system ran to 1,472 megawatts (MW) of power Tuesday night and 1,482 MW Wednesday morning. Hydro can produce 1,575 MW of power to meet demand.
For those trying to wrap their heads around the numbers, it can be confusing. Hydro is reporting its numbers, as stated here, but there are separate numbers for the island as a whole and it remains unclear at what point the lights might actually go out.
Clarity is a challenge for both Hydro staff and the company issuing most of the consumer bills, Newfoundland Power.
For example, Newfoundland Power spokeswoman Michele Coughlan told The Telegram that utility has added to the system as much as it can, with 110 MW from small generators, divided into two pieces: 80 MW of power from small hydroelectric power plants and 30 MW of thermal power from fuel-burners.
She said Newfoundland Power’s 80 MW of hydroelectric power is being included in the 1,575 MW total reported by Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro.
“They’re wrong. It isn’t included in the 1,575 (MW) and the 1,575 (MW) is our number, it’s not theirs, although I have great respect for them,” said Dawn Dalley, vice-president of corporate relations for Hydro’s parent Crown company, Nalcor Energy.
Yet Coughlan insisted on her point.
“I hate to say, but you might have to call them just for clarity on that, but from our operations folks, the hydro generation that we put on the system is included in Hydro’s numbers, so 80 megawatts,” she said.
Dalley has been in front of the cameras as a spokeswoman for Hydro since the start of the current energy conservation period. In response to questions, she walked through numbers provided on the utility’s operations — power being produced by Hydro and power being demanded from Hydro.
The numbers she provided to The Telegram in detail added up to and matched the 1,575 MW of available power reported as Hydro’s available power. They are provided with this story, for anyone counting the megawatts.
Further clarification needed
Meanwhile, former MHA Danny Dumaresque told The Telegram he wants someone to be able to give a direct answer to the question of what the available power is for individuals and businesses — regardless of whether the question is going to Newfoundland Power or Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro.
“Nalcor, or Hydro, has given evidence to the Public Utilities Board (PUB) and certainly led everybody in the province to believe that we have installed capacity of 1,946 MW of power that’s available,” he said, referring to a submission made to the regulator on the heels of rolling blackouts and outages on the island from Jan. 2-8.
“There’s no good telling me that we’ve got 5,000 MW of capacity at Churchill Falls when I know we can’t get access to either one. So what is the point of trying to give the public of this province some sense of confidence that we have (rounded) 1,950 MW of installed capacity when, basically, we are into risk of rolling blackouts if we reach 1,500 (MW)?”
The difference is apparently made up from: remaining power from Corner Brook Pulp and Paper, Newfoundland Power’s power-producing capabilities, wind power and, as Dumaresque acknowledged, current mechanical issues at several power plants leaving 145 MW of power unavailable to the grid.
And yet, while paying for a standby block of power from Corner Brook Pulp and Paper, the utilities have called for conservation.
“It’s the question on everybody’s mind — what is the reliability of supply during the peak periods when we need it? Is it there, or not?” Dumaresque asked.
Over to the PUB
Consumer Advocate Thomas Johnson is looking to the PUB to sort things out.
“The bottom line is it’s not a pleasant situation to find ourselves in, but hopefully the system will be able to manage until the next generation supply is brought on to the system,” he said.
The “next generation supply” is Muskrat Falls in 2017 or an addition in the interim that Hydro has yet to put forward to the PUB.
Managing the system, meanwhile, is requiring extra measures in the interim. Newfoundland Power has had its call centre open earlier and employees staying later, in case of a need to start rolling blackouts. The utility, according to its spokeswoman, has some operational staff working longer hours and line crews on standby.
Johnson said he believes all of the numbers and supply issues will be examined as part of the PUB’s ongoing power system review.
“I called for an investigation and an inquiry into the matter (of system reliability) and, having called for that, I would like to see that process continue and be determined without making broad pronouncements as to what the outcome of that inquiry and investigation process should be,” he said.
The first aspect of the PUB review, dealing with reliability and immediate power needs for the island of Newfoundland through 2017, is expected to conclude with a report May 15.
On Wednesday morning, in response to questions from The Telegram about what was included in Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro’s 1,575 MW of available power, The Telegram received the following information:
Bay d'Espoir - 525
Cat Arm - 138
Hinds Lake - 78
Granite Canal - 41
Upper Salmon - 88
Paradise River - 9
All hydro - 879
Holyrood - 455
Hardwoods - 25
Stephenville - 40
Northern Peninsula Diesels 14
All thermal - 533 (off by 1 due to rounding)
Purchases - 103 (Exploits Generation from Nalcor Energy, Co-generation from Corner Brook Pulp and Paper)
Corner Brook Pulp and Paper additional capacity purchase - 60
Wind power is not included in the count of firm generation available.
(Source: Email from Nalcor Energy spokeswoman, March 5, 2014.)