Mired in controversy, cost overruns, construction delays, politicized decision-making, existential litigation and secrecy, the Lower Churchill Muskrat Falls hydroelectric megaproject in Labrador has just generated the first good news in its history.
The energy-development arm of Newfoundland and Labrador’s government, Nalcor Energy, has this week seen a changing of the guard. Out are Nalcor’s board and CEO. Together, they had an intimate association with the former provincial Progressive Conservative government, which had initiated and shielded the Muskrat Falls project from prying eyes.
In, as of Thursday, is a new CEO, Stan Marshall, recently retired as the head of the private utility powerhouse Fortis Inc. Under Marshall, Fortis rose from its roots as a medium-sized domestic power distributor based in St. John’s to become an extremely successful international multi-energy utility company. Marshall’s track record at Fortis establishes him as the most credible energy-utility leader in the country today.
Marshall has already wasted no time in setting his course. His first official pronouncement Thursday was to declare that he is “deeply troubled” by Muskrat Falls. He’s right to be. Here are the tough nuts Marshall must crack:
As I and other critics warned, Muskrat Falls’ production plan requires trading-off surplus power to Quebec during the higher spring runoff, and then making up its winter generating shortfall with power from Hydro Quebec upstream at Churchill Falls — an arrangement Quebec never agreed to. The previous CEO dismissed our concerns out of hand, but then Hydro Quebec filed an application in court specifically to assert its rights to all of Upper Churchill’s capacity.
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