N.L. takes efforts to plug Lower Churchill into Quebec grid to energy board

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MONTREAL - Newfoundland and Labrador's $6.5-billion plan to develop Lower Churchill hydro generation remains profitable even if it fails to secure a lower cost to plug into Quebec's grid, the head of Newfoundland's energy company said Tuesday.
Nalcor president Ed Martin said the company is willing to pay millions of dollars in annual fees and reasonable costs to upgrade Quebec's transmission network to handle its energy.
Quebec's public utility has pegged annual rental fees at between $75 million and $200 million and capital costs at up to $3 billion. Martin declined to say how much Nalcor expects to spend but said the project is profitable even at the higher amount.
"We know that from a generational perspective it's pretty solid economically and can bear those kinds of costs," he told reporters in Montreal.
Newfoundland's latest offensive against Hydro-Quebec begins next week at Quebec energy board hearings on four complaints filed over Hydro-Quebec's unwillingness to accommodate Newfoundland's power production.
Three weeks of hearings are scheduled in Montreal.
Newfoundland's efforts to use Quebec's transmission corridor date back to 2006.
Martin insisted that Quebec and Canada stand to benefit from Newfoundland's project to develop a further 2,800 megawatts of electricity, much of which will be exported to Ontario, New Brunswick and the eastern United States.
Some of the electricity will be used to make Newfoundland totally reliant on renewable energy.
Nalcor disputes Quebec's claim that its network is operating at full capacity.
Newfoundland is seeking a less expensive route for its electricity than underwater cables to Nova Scotia. But this remains a viable path at some point as the province looks to harness its immense potential to generate energy from hydro, wind and natural gas.
"We're making our decisions on a 50-year framework and so it's not just the economics of one project," Martin said, referring to Lower Churchill.
"We have to stand back and put it into our modelling and say what's going to work over the long haul here and what's the right timing."
The province is also seeking to renegotiate the contentious 1969 Churchill Falls power agreement.
It says the unforeseeable spike in the value of that power means Quebec is buying Labrador's energy for a fraction of its commercial worth.
The agreement doesn't expire until 2041.
Martin said the timing of the two claims is coincidental and unrelated to each other. Nalcor has put a deadline of Friday for Quebec to respond.
Quebec's natural resources minister couldn't be immediately reached for comment.

Organizations: Hydro-Quebec, Quebec energy board

Geographic location: Quebec, Newfoundland and Labrador, MONTREAL Canada Ontario New Brunswick United States Nova Scotia

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