Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Canada Has a Glut? of Clean Energy - Yet Madness Rules Utilities

Fascinating to read on The Sir Robert Bond Papers a breakdown of Danny Williams' breakdown of the status of the Lower Churchill hydro development.  Even more interesting, a (year-old!) report about five years of secret negotiations between Hydro Quebec and Newfoundland over HQ taking on an equity role in the Lower Churchill with NL setting aside redress over the original Churchill Falls deal.

Awash in Green - ergy?

These reports are just more confirmation that the energy situation in Canada is baffling, convoluted, incomprehensible and just completely fried..

1. Apparently Canada has a massive excess of clean green energy. So much so that a lot of it isn't even developed. Even though it is safe, clean and relatively easy on the environment in many or most cases.

Committing to Overpriced Energy

2. Yet for some as yet unexplained reason, Ontario and B.C. are entering into electricity contracts like there's no tomorrow, committing to paying out huge sums that vastly exceed going market prices for utility power, and Alberta, of course, continues to go hogwild, producing the dirtiest energy in the world .

If you don't believe #1 - then why is it that scads of undeveloped hydro potential remains untouched in remote parts of Labrador and Quebec? One reason is supposedly because Hydro Quebec and Newfoundland are both worried about throwing a dam power sale and having no one show up. And, both parties seem to be jealous about protecting whatever angle they have (or would have or hope to have or dream to have) at selling electricity in the U.S. market.

Water Taps Behaving Like Flamethrowers

Meanwhile, back in the Q, exploration companies are falling over each other to stake out claims in the Utica shale "gaz" biz. This is the whole hydrofracturing blitz that's going to occur below all the sweet farmland in the lower St. Lawrence. This, despite the fact that miffed residents of upstate New York and Pennsylvania are having loads o' fun posting videos of their water taps behaving like flamethrowers... and searching on Google for places to get their water tested.

You fracking betcha.

Luv Those "Free Mining" Principles

Well, you can't really blame the Quebec prospectors for luvin' it. Given that oil and gas in Quebec still falls under the venerable "Mining Act", which, under "free mining" principles, allows exploration on a "first-come-first-served basis", with license holders obliged to pay annual "rent" of $2.50/hectare. Based on that the rental cost of the rights to explore 1 million hectares would be about $2.5 million, seemingly a far cry from what is being spent by industry in western Canada.

In fact, B.C. has raked in over $3 billion since 2008 from auctioning off exploration rights for its own shale gas motherlode. Maybe that's why B.C. figured they could afford to pay $825 million for a 1/3 share of the Waneta Dam. Which is an astronomical amount to pay, especially when you consider that the original deal for Hydro Quebec to buy N.B. Power - lock, stock and 15 hydro, coal and diesel generating stations, was $4.75 billion.

Now What is NB Power Gonna Do?

Which brings us to the whole Hydro Quebec N.B. Power non-buyout fiasco. Rejected by New Brunswickers for all the wrong reasons. Officially, ultimately declined by Quebec for the bogus reason that it would be "too risky".

Geo-Thermal Ignored

Why, amidst all these other conundrums, does geo-thermal energy get so little serious play?

Why does none of this make any sense?

Coveting Enron

Besides the fact that corporate vultures are circling everywhere around this ecosystem, eyes glazing over with greed at the thought of somehow, some way, setting up another Enron.

Do we chalk it all up to petty regional jealousies?

Is there any light at the end of the tunnel for a sane energy plan in Canada?

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