Ontario has announced that it will be taking steps towards buying hydroelectric power from Newfoundland and Labrador. Premier Wynn was seen touring the hydroelectricity construction site at Muskrat Falls in Newfoundland just days before the premiers’ Council of Federation in St. John’s, where the new Canadian Energy Strategy was signed.
A working group between Newfoundland’s Crown Corporation, Nalcor Energy and Ontario’s Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) will be set up to investigate the technical and economic feasibility of buying power from the Muskrat Falls plant and the pending Gull Island facility. The Muskrat Falls plant will generate over 800 MW of power when it goes online in 2017, while the Gull Island project, while still in its planning stages, will generate 2,250 MW by 2020. One of the issues of the project will be figuring out how to transmit the power across the country. However, new infrastructure like subsea cables will purportedly allow the power to be sold to the U.S. and other provinces.
The negotiations with Newfoundland and Labrador will prioritize affordable, environmentally-friendly power that will improve system reliability. The deal may be enormously important for Ontario since 10 of our nuclear reactors are in need of refurbishment. According to Ontario Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli, this could take 12 years or more to complete. Importing clean hydroelectric power is preferable to firing polluting natural gas plants while the reactors are offline.
Though negotiations to buy power from Newfoundland are just beginning, the proposal is seen as a step towards the development of a Canada-wide grid. According to Chiarelli, this is one of the desired outcomes the development of a national energy strategy.