Nfld. & Labrador

7 facts and figures from the Muskrat Falls update

Nalcor Energy and the province released a lot more information about the Muskrat Falls project on Friday. Here's some of what was initially overshadowed by last week's big top-level headlines.
The power house at the Muskrat Falls generation facility is pictured in this May 29, 2017, handout image. (Courtesy Nalcor Energy)

It's a journalistic truism that bad news comes on a summer Friday — doubly bad when that Friday falls before a long holiday weekend.

This past Friday's Muskrat Falls revelations were the example that proved the rule.

Another billion added to the tab for the troubled megaproject.

Another reference to Muskrat Falls as a "boondoggle."

And the coup de grâce — Nalcor CEO Stan Marshall's description of the whole endeavour as "a hell of a lot worse … deal than the Upper Churchill."

That was the top-level news from Friday.

But Nalcor Energy and the province released a lot more information about Muskrat Falls that was overshadowed by those big headlines.

Here are seven of those facts and figures, that may have gotten lost in the shuffle:

1.  Work 3/4 completed

Construction on the project is now 75 per cent complete. That's up from 48 per cent last May.

2.  Cost of 2016 protests

There is now a price tag attached to the direct cost of protests at the Muskrat Falls site last fall — roughly $50 million, related to a three-month delay.

Labrador artist Stan Nochasak is pictured at a Muskrat Falls demonstration on the steps of the Confederation Building in St. John's on Oct. 25, 2016. (Paul Daly/Canadian Press)

3.  Operating costs triple

It's not just the cost to build Muskrat Falls that has skyrocketed. So has the amount to run the facility when it's operational. Those "base operating and maintenance costs" were initially expected to be $34 million a year, when the project was sanctioned back in 2012. 

That number has now tripled, to $109 million per year, when the project comes fully online in 2020. That figure includes $9 million for environmental monitoring.

4.  Power rates 

In five years time, power rates are expected to nearly double, to 23.3 cents per kilowatt hour, for customers in Newfoundland. It's worth noting that is a huge jump from the 15.3 cents per kilowatt hour estimate for 2022 when Muskrat Falls was given the green light five years ago.

5.  Could be worse

And that 23.3 cents per-kilowatt figure could have been worse. According to figures provided by Nalcor Energy, the second federal loan guarantee for Muskrat Falls lopped 1.5 cents per kilowatt hour off the projected cost.

Without that help from Ottawa, power rates would be pushing towards 25 cents per kilowatt hour in 2022.

Nalcor CEO Stan Marshall provides an update on the Muskrat Falls hydro megaproject at a press conference in St. John's on June 23, 2017. (Cal Tobin/CBC)

6.  Money to mitigate

That 23.3 cents per kilowatt hour figure could be reduced by rate mitigation measures. In the spring provincial budget, the government announced that "Nalcor has been directed to source $210 million to lower electricity rates starting in 2020-21, with this preliminary rate reserve growing to $245 million in the following fiscal years."

The Ball administration reiterated the importance of rate mitigation measures on Friday. But that is money the government will not be able to use to fund other priorities.

7.  Less from Holyrood

While Muskrat Falls won't be online in 2018, Nalcor will be using new transmission infrastructure to bring other power from Labrador to the island next year.

That will help reduce the usage of oil-fired generation at Holyrood, and cut back on fuel costs. Officials hope that will also help ease the burden on consumers.