Nfld. & Labrador

Still high risk of power outages despite new generation, says #darknl review

A consulting group investigating the causes behind the widespread outages across Newfoundland in January released two reports on Thursday, stating there is still a big risk of further outages for 2015-2017 despite new generation capacity.

Ed Martin responds to concerns raised by #darknl review

8 years ago
Duration 1:37
Nalcor CEO Ed Martin says the company has improved its equipment and it's ready for winter.

A consulting group investigating the causes behind the widespread outages across Newfoundland in January released two reports on Thursday, stating there is still a big risk of further outages for 2015-2017, despite new generation capacity.

Nalcor CEO Ed Martin says the findings in the report released are aligned to what Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro found in its reports, and the Crown corporation will be moving forward with the recommendations made.

In a report released on Thursday, the Liberty Consulting Group says further investigation into the widespread outages in January show problems stemmed from insufficient generating resources to meet demand, and issues with operation at key transmission sites.

Liberty was commissioned by the Public Utilities Board (PUB) earlier this year, after power was knocked out to hundreds of thousands of customers across Newfoundland. In some cases, people were without power for up to one week.

According to Liberty, the findings released this week are in keeping with their interim report into the outages released in April.

In the report, the group said the addition of 120 megawatts of generation from a new combustion turbine will make "a significant contribution to generating resource sufficiency."

Earlier this year, Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro fast-tracked a $120-million project to install the new turbine at the Holyrood facility following the January outages.

However, the report concluded overall generation reserves remain "very low," and the risk of additional outages for the next few winter seasons "remains high."

'They're saying what we understand'

Liberty said Hydro "must continue to focus on ensuring the availability of all generation units," for the upcoming winter periods.
Nalcor CEO Ed Martin says the findings in Liberty's report are along the same lines as Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro's findings. (CBC)

While Liberty said Hydro has made substantial progress with addressing issues that contributed to failures in January, further work will need to continue "at least through 2015" to complete necessary work.

"They’re saying what we understand — that there’s a balance to be achieved here. The critical piece is that we’re achieving that balance," said Martin.

"We’ve got the plans in place to keep the current assets operating, we’ve made the long-term decision on Muskrat Falls, now our job is to make sure that the current assets are strong from now until 2017 and we have a plan in place to do that."

Martin said before Muskrat Falls comes online in 2017, there is work needed to be done on the way Nalcor's power system is organized in order to match up to the reliability standards across North America.

He added the plan is to have the new organization in place by the end of 2015, to ensure it works once Muskrat Falls starts producing power.

Emergency plans

Liberty has recommended by March 1, 2015, Hydro report its analysis of the 2013-14 winter usage, and clarify its "proposed reconstruction of the winter 2013-14 peak," adding the Crown corporation should provide a reasonable criteria for reserve margins.
A consulting group investigation into the widespread power outages in January says despite Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro's progress on upgrades to its systems, there is still a high risk of outages for the 2015-2017 winter seasons. (CBC )

The report also stated Hydro needs to take immediate action, given the system vulnerabilities likely for this winter, on a number of issues, including an emergency plan to identify generation source while the new combustion turbine remains unavailable.

Liberty added Hydro should "be prepared to trigger emergency plans" when, and if, extreme weather conditions are forecasted that would result in generation peaks being reached or exceeded.

The consulting firm also concluded customers on the Island Interconnected System experienced more lengthy interruptions to power services because of planned maintenance, rather than forced interruptions.

Power's reliability

A second report released by Liberty, looking into Newfoundland Power's role in the outages, said the operations, outage management and emergency practices at that company "all conform to good utility practices."

"Newfoundland Power's reliability performance has been better than Canadian comparators on standard reliability metrics for the last five years," the report stated.

However, Liberty said NL Power and NL Hydro should focus on a joint effort to consider its approach to conservation efforts.

Newfoundland Power, meanwhile, said it was "pleased" with Liberty’s findings in the report.

"We take our responsibility to deliver safe, reliable electricity to our customers very seriously — we know electricity is an essential service that customers depend on every day," said Gary Smith, president and CEO at Newfoundland Power.


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