NALCOR: THE SPIN DOCTOR DOES NOT INSPIRE CONFIDENCE

Photo Credit: The Economist

The phrase, popularized by Mark Twain, “lies,
damn lies and statistics” is perfectly suited to those whose arguments are weak and are wont to engage in the art of
the ‘spin doctor’.

Excuses for
the current power debacle are in full flight.

Nalcor CEO Ed Martin
attempted to explain away Holyrood’s current problems stating, on the public
media, that the recent spurt of unseasonal weather spiked the Demand by 35% over the average for the last 
5 years. The impression left was that the recent temperatures caused a situation that was totally unforeseen, blind siding Nalcor.





The public is expected to think that such an occurrence should be reason enough to forgive Nalcor having dropped the ball on its basic maintenance program; on ensuring the electricity infrastructure was capable of meeting Demand, that the ‘experts’ at Nalcor as Premier Dunderdale calls them, had us covered. 
Of course, no statistic can obscure the fact that, as a candid NL Hydro Vice-President, Rob Henderson confirmed Holyrood Unit #3 generator “…is operating at one-third of its capacity…”; the Hardwood “…generator was taken out of service…” and the generator at Stephenville was “…waiting for parts on order…”.  In other words, Nalcor’s Summer maintenance Program was a disaster.


The Telegram quotes Henderson “…having Holyrood at its full capacity and the two gas turbines (Stephenville and Hardwoods) online would be enough to handle the power demand currently being faced”.  


Mr. Henderson’s comments constitute a sad indictment for Nalcor which he appropriately placed on the public record.  I expect the PUB will take due note of his comments.

EXHIBIT 1

But, back to the statistic of a 35% increase in average demand. Ed Martin may have thought
that it would bolster his case that the current peak number was a
big surprise.  He will find no luck there.

The problem for him is that Nalcor’s
own Demand Forecasts are on the public record.

The average peak load, over the last 5 years, is 1549 MW.  The peak load experienced, last week, was
1720 MW as tweeted by Dawn Dalley of Nalcor. 
This is an 11% increase over the 5 year average peak – not the higher
figure Martin asserts.



But, even this figure of 11% is highly suspect.  Notwithstanding Ms. Dalley’s Tweet, I refer you again to the earlier noted Telegram article by Reporter Ashley Fitzpatrick titled “Power demands still high, supply low” on Saturday, January 4, 2013 (P. A4) in which, the forthright NL Hydro V-P, Rob Henderson states: “Demand has been peaking below 1,600 megawatts”.  The Telegram piece adds “Even so, Hydro lead Rob Henderson told reporters the system is being maxed out”. 


Need more proof?  The first Technical Briefing by Nalcor on January 3rd noted that the current load was running at 1520 MW, no where near Ed Martin’s or Dalley’s numbers.  


Moreover, what the public needs to learn is that the figure “below 1600 megawatts” is completely consistent with the 2013 actual Peak of 1570 MWs and below Nalcor’s own 2014 Forecast Peak Load of 1666 MW (see Exhibit 2).


Exhibit 1 (above) provides Actual Peak loads. Exhibit 2 is Nalcor’s Forecast out to 2024, part of its DG-2 Submission to the PUB.  

EXHIBIT 2

‘Surprise’,
by the way, results from being blind-sided.
 
If you have been forewarned and still failed to implement appropriate plans to compensate, you have either forgotten what you were advised else you failed to make provision for what you already know. 

Was Nalcor
blind-sided? 
No.  


Nalcor was aware long ago that Peak Demand would reach
1666 MW in January, 2014 just as it was aware that the 2013 Peak Demand had reached 1,570 MWs.

It is too
late now to feign surprise.

“Spin” may
help in the fine art of ass-covering, but it doesn’t engender confidence in Nalcor as a public utility or its CEO. 


Does anyone know the lyrics to “Numbers Don’t Lie” by The Mynabirds? Here it is in part:


It was always what you said
It would be, and nothing more
Through the smoke screens and the pipe dreams
And the blood on the floor

You say it’s black, well it’s bound to be black.
You made up your mind, and you see with that.





Des Sullivan
Des Sullivan
St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada Uncle Gnarley is hosted by Des Sullivan, of St. John's. He is a businessman engaged over three decades in real estate management and development companies and in retail. He is currently a Director of Dorset Investments Limited and Donovan Holdings Limited. During his early career he served as Executive Assistant to Premier's Frank D. Moores (1975-1979) and Brian Peckford (1979-1985). He also served as a Part-Time Board Member on the Canada-Newfoundland Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board (C-NLOPB). Uncle Gnarley appears on the masthead representing serious and unambiguous positions on NL politics and public policy. Uncle Gnarley is a fiscal conservative possessing distinctly liberal values and a non-partisan persusasion. Those values and opinions underlie this writer's views on NL's politics, economy and society. Uncle Gnarley publishes Monday mornings and more often when events warrant.

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4 COMMENTS

  1. There's another saying too. "You can make stats say whatever you want them to say". And that's what you are clearly doing in this article. With all of your self-created knowledge, I do not understand why you do not use your energies to try to help the people on the Avalon rather than bitching at Nalcor? You do not help by attacking. Oh, I forgot though – Loos like you have an axe to grind with Nalcor and the provincial government. Have you ever been to the Northern Peninsula?