A Nalcor communication memo dated January 27
describes damage to “a small section of the electrode line” on Transmission Towers located on the Labrador
Island Link (LIL) in an area between from L’anse au Diable to Muskrat Falls.
The incident, it said, occurred “following a recent winter/ice storm in Labrador.”

The note stated that the section of the electrode
line “broke and fell to the ground”. (HVDC electrodes are used to improve
reliability on HVDC systems permitting continued operation but at reduced
capacity.) The Nalcor statement also noted that “Repairs are required to be
made on eight of the 1,282 towers.” It states that “(t)he main components of
the transmission towers and the primary transmission lines were not damaged.”

The statement does not say when the event occurred (though mid-January is likely) or what the impact would have been had the Holyrood Generating Station been
shuttered as part of Nalcor’s scheme to give economic justification to the
failed Project. The Statement does not appear on Nalcor’s Web Site; the
incident is embedded with information of the more innocuous kind, and it has not been reported
in the media.

Nalcor does not acknowledge that all it takes is
one damaged tower to bring down the whole system; damages to eight towers constitutes
a catastrophe.

Right now, the public should be asking themselves a legitimate “what if” question – what if Holyrood was shuttered?

Reports conducted for the PUB by the Liberty
Consulting Group have confirmed that an LIL outage will lead to a 500MW
capacity deficit on the Avalon Peninsula if the 490MW Holyrood Thermal
Generating Station is decommissioned.

This is a serious issue and not merely because no
commitment has been made by the Provincial Government regarding the future of
the Holyrood Generating Station. While politics is being played over an
unnecessary piece of equipment for the new Corner Brook Hospital, and “Rate
Mitigation” has been moved to the “hope” category of fiscal management, life and death issues are
obscured presumably because the politicians are more worried about the reputations of the rascals at Nalcor than they are the people of the province.

Electrode cross-arm at top of 8 Towers damaged 

Have the public forgotten #DARKNL already?

A couple of comments may help rekindle this key
public policy issue.

First, one of the few conclusions that MHI made – that Nalcor did not completely corrupt – the Consultant warned “that Nalcor’s
proposed transmission line design criteria was inadequate and did not comply
with industry standards and practices.”

 The PUB accepted their assessment.  

Reliability of an overhead transmission line is
generally measured by its
return period.A return period of 50
years (1:50-year return period) means the transmission line is designed to
withstand weather conditions that will occur on average once in a 50-year period.” (Vol 2 CIMFP Vol. 2) The longer the return period the more sturdy the construction of a transmission

The Commission of Inquiry noted the PUB’s position which “found that
proposed design criteria were inadequate and contrary
to Canadian Utilities Standards 
and Practicesand not supported by the facts.” The Commission further noted that “Despite this
criticism, Nalcor did not change its reliability return period or loadings 
at DG3.” The Commissioner acknowledges that Nalcor’s refusal to deal with
the substandard design was financial; the Crown Corporation was “lowballing”
the Project estimates.

Nalcor has attempted to claim that its design return period is actually
1:500 years. Even more recently than MHI’s analysis, a 2016 expert report filed with the PUB on behalf of Newfoundland Power concluded that “
the reliability level of
the LIL is equivalent to a return period of no greater than 50 years.” (The
same warning is given for the TL on the Avalon Peninsula.)

Newfoundland and Labrador has (so far) has experienced one of the best
winters on record. Is the public waiting for a “real” Labrador weather event
before making this issue a priority?

Perhaps in this General Election, it is time to get our priorities

The Furey Administration continues to offer no
leadership to Nalcor and seems incapable of even keeping the Crown Corporation
honest. Nothing has changed since former Premier Danny Williams essentially
gave CEO Ed Martin the keys to the public Treasury.

Danny Williams, Kathy Dunderdale, Tom Marshall,
Paul Davis, Dwight Ball and now, Premier Furey, have all expressed an
unwillingness to take control of this reckless organization. They have even
left many of the same senior Executives in place.

If the Premier Furey is being kept from doing his
duty by certain unelected people having a vested interest in maintaining
Nalcor’s veil of secrecy, perhaps, minimally, he will ask the PUB to
investigate this latest saga casting doubt on the integrity of Nalcor and the
safety and security of Newfoundland’s electrical system.  

Sounds to me, however, that Newfoundland ratepayers may need another #DARKNL to be reminded that ‘cold and dark’ is not just unpleasant and life threatening; it is actually about priorities – especially good public policy – and that it ought to rank higher than any other issue that has been raised in this Election.

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.


Bill left public life shortly after the signing of the Atlantic Accord and became a member of the Court of Appeal until his retirement in 2003. During his time on the court he was involved in a number of successful appeals which overturned wrongful convictions, for which he was recognized by Innocence Canada. Bill had a special place in his heart for the underdog.

Churchill Falls Explainer (Coles Notes version)

If CFLCo is required to maximize its profit, then CFLCo should sell its electricity to the highest bidder(s) on the most advantageous terms available.


This is the most important set of negotiations we have engaged in since the Atlantic Accord and Hibernia. Despite being a small jurisdiction we proved to be smart and nimble enough to negotiate good deals on both. They have stood the test of time and have resulted in billions of dollars in royalties and created an industry which represents over a quarter of our economy. Will we prove to be smart and nimble enough to do the same with the Upper Churchill?