Letter to the Editor: Expanding afforable renewable green energy in Newfoundland and Labrador

Dear Editor: We write regarding James MacLeod’s article in the June 18, 2011 edition of your paper “PUB sets sights on Muskrat Falls.”  The article reported on the request from the Goverment of Newfoundland and Labrador to the Provincial Public Utilities Board(PUB) to determine if Muskrat Falls is the cheapest source of power for Newfoundlanders. However, in the terms of reference, the Newfoundland government limited the assessment to “an isolated island scenario.” Specifically the PUB was ordered not to consider any of the excess power generated from Muskrat Falls as part of the review. In the view of the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador “ an isolated island system and Musktat Falls were the only options that provide the necessary energy security, economic feasibility and environmental considerations.”

What is concerning about the position taken by the Newfoundland government is the limiting scope of the proposed study as it appears to be restricted to comparing hydro-electric production on the island of Newfoundland with hydro-electric production at Muskrat Falls.  While this may have some merit, it fails to address the long term vision for sustainable energy production in this province, and with it, the projected costs of that production.  In recent years electricity generation has undergone vast technological  and administrative changes as countries struggle to implement programs to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by de-commissioning or reducing production from fossil fuel burning electricity generating stations.

In many western countries, great strides have been made in harnessing green renewable electricity sources such as bio-gas, wind, solar, tidal and geo-thermal energy through the passage of enabling legislation known as Feed-In Tariffs(FIT).  Such legislation permits virtually anybody including  individuals, municipalities, non-profit organizations,  small businesses, and companies to produce electricity for their own use and to sell on the electricity grid.  Governments set prices for green energy which reflect their actual cost -including a modest profit – and grid operators are required to purchase the electricity from these independent producers at the set prices.  To accomodate the variety of electrical energy sources, electricity grid operators have expanded grid flexibility and capacity by developing what have become known as Smart Grids.   This focus on widespread green renewable energy production  has also placed more emphasis on the efficient use of existing energy sources through the introduction of smart metering,  off-peak rates,  and widely expanded energy conservation. Similarly in regions where Feed In Tariff legislation is in place such initiatives have fostered more awareness among the general public of the importance of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Unfortunately the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador’s energy policy document “Focusing Our Energy” failed to make any mention of Feed In Tariff legislation, Smart Grids, and many of the other topics mentioned above.   It is our position that green renewable energy production can play a major role in long term electricity production not only for Newfoundland and Labrador but for all of the Atlantic Provinces.  It has great potential as an engine for local, provincial, and regional economic growth and industrial development for decades to come. To date it has been marginalized and often left out of any meaningful discussions as a legitimate energy option despite significant evidence to the contrary as experienced on five continents.

We would ask that when considering sustainable energy options for this province that all sustainable energy sources be considered using the best scientific and environmental research available.

We have many green renewable energy sources in this province which can be of benefit to all our citizens if properly utilized. The Public Utilities Board and the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador  should give equal consideration to all options when considering costs and future directions of electricity production in this province.


Fred Winsor
Conservation Chair
Atlantic Canada Chapter
Sierra Club Canada

Originally published in the July 2 2011 edition of the Telegram newspaper. Republished with the permission of the author.