In its Lower Churchill project agreements, Nalcor Energy secured 330 megawatts of firm transmission capacity from Cape Breton, N.S., through to the Maine border — pay-as-you-go.
“Once we hit New England, we have what are called congestion rights,” said Nalcor Energy Marketing general manager Greg Jones, in a recent interview.
“So it’s just like a choke point on the transmission line. When you’re going from a four-lane highway down to a two-lane highway. We get in the express lane.”
It’s a good thing, he said, given the potential the Crown corporation sees in the New England marketplace — particularly in Connecticut and Massachusetts — now and in the future.
Nalcor Energy Marketing already sells at the Canada-U.S. border, into the independent system operator (ISO) in New England, who sends out the power to meet demands of the electric utilities.
Each megawatt hour of electricity is tagged NMC — Nalcor Energy Marketing Corp. And each tag into the U.S. to the ISO generates revenue.
There will be more as the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric plant comes online.
Apart from spot sales, Jones said the New England states, particularly Massachusetts, have set aggressive targets for greenhouse gas reductions, leading to the possibility of more power being sold into the area by Nalcor in the coming years.
And that would not necessarily be power from Muskrat Falls, he said.
“When it comes to that aspect of it, that’s when they look to projects like Gull Island that can actually move the needle,” he said, citing Phase 2 of the Lower Churchill project, despite there still being no suggestion put to the public as to any potential start date on that megaproject, or indication of how the estimated 2,250 megawatts it would be capable of producing might be moved to market.
On July 9, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker introduced the “Global Warming Solutions Act” — legislation that would require electric distribution companies to take on more hydroelectric power from Canada, under longterm contracts of 15 to 25 years.
“The (climate change) goals we chose were aggressive ones: a reduction of 25 per cent below 1990 levels by 2020 and a reduction of 80 per cent below 1990 levels by 2050,” he said, in a statement introducing the bill.
The assumption in the state’s climate change plan, the governor said, was Massachusetts would take in as much as 1,200 megawatts of hydro from Canada by 2020. The new legislation is meant to kick-start the securing of that power and more.
Canadian hydro may or may not include Nalcor Energy power. There is also the potential for Hydro-Québec to provide power to the area.
On the other hand, the province of Ontario has also been labelled a possible market for Gull Island power.
Meanwhile Gordon Weil, at the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies, says Nalcor Energy Marketing — with whatever power it has— should be focusing closer to home.
He pointed to the addition of a 50-megawatt diesel generator being proposed by Maritime Electric for Prince Edward Island, as previously reported by The Telegram. Weil said it shows there is a need still to be met within Atlantic Canada, and the addition of a diesel generator by any utility in the region would be a mistake. He recommends more transmission capacity and better use of available generators.
He promoted a power agreement between the provinces that would see the lowest cost generation online at any given moment, benefiting ratepayers, before outside buyers are ever considered.
“I’ve talked to Nalcor and I just think they’re excessively optimistic about the U.S. market, whereas they have an opportunity in Atlantic Canada,” he said.