Electricity in Newfoundland and Labrador

Newfoundland and Labrador's electricity future rests on a bonanza of potential clean power: the Churchill River in Labrador.
Newfoundland and Labrador produces more power than it uses. Its electricity future lies in clean power, mainly from the Churchill River in Labrador. (iStock)

Newfoundland & Labrador

Avg. price: 11¢/kWh (5th-lowest among provinces)

2010 capacity: 2,278 MW

2020 forecast capacity: 5,352 MW*

Peak use (2009): 1,390 MW

Greenhouse-gas intensity rank: 7th-highest

GHG emissions goal: 10% below 1990 levels by 2020

*with full development of Lower Churchill

Newfoundland and Labrador's electricity future rests on a bonanza of potential clean power: the Churchill River in Labrador. In November 2010, the province reached a $6.2-billion deal with Nova Scotia to develop 824 megawatts of generation along the Churchill at Muskrat Falls — with a further 2,250 MW pending at Gull Island — and to transmit the power across the Strait of Belle Isle to Newfoundland. From there, electricity will travel via a new subsea link to Cape Breton Island.

Do you want to know how much you'll be paying for electricity in 2020? Try the provincial cost calculator.

The deal saw the province stare down Quebec, which has long been a thorn in its side when it comes to power issues. A 1969 contract with Hydro-Québec gives Quebec the sales rights to the vast majority of power from the 5,428-megawatt Churchill Falls generating station, electricity that it sells to U.S. markets for billions of dollars in profit. The deal with Nova Scotia will allow Newfoundland and Labrador to circumvent Quebec and send power through an underwater cable to the Maritimes and lucrative U.S. markets. The new developments on the Churchill will also help the province, already one of the cleanest in the country for power generation, meet its goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 1.3 million tonnes a year starting in 2015.

On March 31, Conservative leader Stephen Harper promised to provide a loan guarantee for the Lower Churchill project, if his government was re-elected following the May 2 federal election. His comments drew quick praise from Premier Kathy Dunderdale, who said the deal was exactly what she was looking for.

However, Bloc Quebecois leader Gilles Duceppe called the deal a "slap in the face" for Quebec, saying it was unfair to use federal tax dollars to pay for a provincial project.

Newfoundland and Labrador has the potential to develop other sources of renewable electricity, as well. Newfoundland has 54 MW of wind generation installed on the island and is aiming for another 26 MW over the next few years — though no procurement process is underway. And the province's mills generate biomass residues that could be burned as a source of carbon-neutral power.