Position Statement on Proposed Muskrat Falls Development

The Energy Issues Committee (EIC) of the Ecology Action Centre (EAC) takes as its starting point the conviction that urgent action is required to address climate change. It is Nova Scotia’s responsibility to do its share in a global effort to confront the climate crisis.

Wiser energy use through efficiency, energy waste reduction, and energy demand reduction must be our primary response to climate change. Yet it is also necessary to convert the energy we do use from fossil fuels –based to renewables -based energy.

Harnessing the hydroelectric potential of the Lower Churchill system in Labrador would have irreversible adverse effects on the local ecosystem and indigenous Nunatsiavut, Nitassinan, and NunatuKavut communities[1]. The dramatic, large-scale impacts of the Muskrat Falls project must be weighed against its potential to transition the region away from fossil fuel dependence.

The ecological and social impacts of developing Muskrat Falls must also be weighed against the potential adverse impacts of alternative options, in the short and long-term. Widespread ecological and economic consequences of climate change must be met with comprehensive energy system planning in Atlantic Canada.

The proposal to develop Muskrat Falls should only be approved if, after careful scrutiny in consultation with the best expertise available, it is determined the project will be of net-benefit to Atlantic Canada’s ecology and communities.

The Nova Scotia government has unrolled a series of targets for greenhouse gas reductions from the electricity sector and renewable energy development. Several pieces of innovative legislation and policy will help the province achieve those targets. Muskrat Falls can play a part in realizing Nova Scotia’s goals. The project also has progressive potential for the entire Atlantic region.

Project proponents have made reference to some of these benefits, but have yet to provide concrete evidence to what extent these benefits really exist, and if there is a strategy to take advantage of their potential. Without a clearer vision of the long-term role the Muskrat Falls development might play in securing Nova Scotia’s and Atlantic Canada’s sustainable energy futures, it is difficult to justify the project’s significant economic and ecological costs.

Potential elements of a long-term vision

Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions

The Plan So Far

> Muskrat Falls will help Nova Scotia meet its legislated GHG emissions reductions in 2020 and 2030

> Newfoundland & Labrador will close its last remaining bunker-c oil –burning generation facility, Holyrood, if and when Muskrat Falls comes online

 

Muskrat Falls’ Optimal Potential

> Plans for Muskrat Falls could and should include helping Nova Scotia reduce GHGs more aggressively post-2020 than currently planned

> A timeline for complete coal phase-out in Nova Scotia should be proposed in conjunction with the Muskrat Falls proposal

 

Renewable Energy

The Plan So Far

> A small amount of baseload electricity, now supplied by fossil fuels, will be replaced with hydroelectricity from Muskrat Falls in Nova Scotia and Newfoundland & Labrador

> The intermittency of renewable energy resources will be balanced in Nova Scotia and Newfoundland & Labrador using the flexibility of Muskrat Falls

> Muskrat Falls will contribute to Nova Scotia’s goal of having 40% of its electricity generated from renewable sources by 2020; current projections published by the Nova Scotia government put the province’s fuel mix at 50% clean energy by 2030

 

Muskrat Falls’ Optimal Potential

 

> Nova Scotia should put forward its vision for a 100% fossil-free fuel mix by 2040 – committing to a development the scale of Muskrat Falls should go hand-in-hand with committing to bold renewable energy targets that provide new opportunities for domestic green options and energy independence (e.g. wind, tidal, solar, energy efficiency)

> Aggressive efficiency and development of other renewables should be integral parts of any long-term energy projects and plans being proposed in Newfoundland & Labrador – the province has currently put efficiency and wind development on hold while it makes plans to develop Muskrat Falls

> Plans for Muskrat Falls should acknowledge that new transmission connections could unlock Newfoundland & Labrador’s efficiency and renewable potential for the greater benefit of the entire region and work toward optimizing that scenario

> The Muskrat Falls proposal should include plans to transition any communities in Newfoundland & Labrador currently relying on diesel fuel for electricity to a clean fuel mix – using hydroelectricity where practical and innovative renewable and/or storage technologies elsewhere

 

 

Regionalization

 

The Plan So Far

 

> Muskrat Falls will substantially improve Nova Scotia and Newfoundland & Labradors’ transmission capacities, bringing Newfoundland & Labrador into the North American grid for the first time and giving both provinces new opportunities to play competitive roles in the electricity market

> The project will enhance the reliability of both provinces’ domestic distribution grids by providing improved east – west transmission capacity for variable renewable energy sources

> While no deals have been struck, the potential for expanding transmission capacity between Nova Scotia and New Brunswick to accommodate the sale of surplus hydroelectricity from Muskrat Falls to New England is being discussed

 

Muskrat Falls’ Optimal Potential

 

> The regional implications and long timelines of the Muskrat Falls project should accelerate and mature the conversations being hosted by the Atlantic Canada Energy Gateway Initiative about enhanced system regionalization and the potential for a regional system operator – if the project is undertaken, it will redefine relationships between Atlantic Canadian provinces when it comes to energy and electricity system planning

> The Nova Scotia government should take advantage of the Muskrat Falls proposal to conduct a fuller conversation with Nova Scotians about the province’s clean energy future – deciding whether the project is right for Nova Scotia involves speculating and talking about how the province might and should look decades from now

 




[1] August 2011. Joint Review Panel. Report of the Joint Review Panel: Lower Churchill Hydroelectric Generation Project, Nalcor Energy, Newfoundland and Labrador.

 

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