World Energy GH2 Director Brendan Paddick stepped down as Chair of the Churchill River Energy Analysis Team last week only a short time after the province learned that the Committee existed, the Premier having failed to inform the public.
For much of the time, the Department of Environment and Climate Change has been processing his Company’s Application for a large-scale wind energy farm on the Port au Port Peninsula. World Energy plans to construct and operate a maximum 1 gigawatt (GW), 164-turbine onshore wind farm, ostensibly to power a 0.5 GW hydrogen/ammonia production facility in the port of Stephenville.
The cavalier Premier Furey – “life is full of conflicts…” he told VOCM – did not push Paddick to resign. Instead, Paddick chose to resign – not from World Energy GH2, but from the Churchill River Committee.
Could it be that he loved the public less, and his private interests more?
The Premier’s willingness to expose the public to an obvious potential conflict is disturbing.
Mr. Paddick, by all accounts a successful entrepreneur, has the right to make the choice even if he, too, ought to have known better than to put himself into such an unacceptable position.
The Premier, however, does not possess that choice, and ought to have dealt with the matter immediately.
His public comments worryingly confirm that he is less skilled in the practice of transparent Government than in the ways of partisan politics.
We should worry, too, that the Cabinet and the senior public service, especially the Cabinet Clerk and Deputy Ministers of Justice and Natural Resources, either failed to warn the Premier, or even tried to nudge him to quickly resolve the potential conflict.
Perhaps, he ignored them all?
In this matter, as on so many other issues, an ineffective Official Opposition means that our political system is wide open to abuse. If the Tories think that David Brazil is an acceptable stand-in for real Opposition, we should not be surprised that the Liberals feel they can choose friends to inhabit critical roles within government.
Of course, the public has other reasons to keep an eye on this Premier.
Paddick’s World Energy GH2 confirms under Table 2.4 (page 2.18) for example, that “The required electricity for the plant will be from the Project’s wind farm or the NL Hydro generating assets…” It adds that “Interconnection to the existing grid (will be) for mutual beneficial seasonable exchange of green energy”, and suggests that there is a “Potential opportunity to back-stop NL Hydro commitment to EMERA for export sales”.
These are not matters for a private Company to assume. That is the role of the GNL and then only after they have proven such services necessary, following which all interested parties should be given the same opportunity to bid on their provision.
Has the Government already given World Energy GH2 a wink and a nod?
NL Hydro is a public asset; the public has a right to know if Hydro intends to enter into a “Power Purchase Agreement” and a “balancing agreement” (required by wind producers, because it is an intermittent resource).
Both Agreements have the effect of committing very expensive power generation capacity on a long-term basis. They also expose NL to the obligation to build more – which the province can ill-afford. (Note: when NL Hydro Chair spoke recently about new power demand, not once did she say if any of the potential purchasers were prepared to pay the cost of production.)
In its filing, (Appendix A, page 27), World Energy states: “We are far advanced compared to other developers and ready to proceed – the only government support we require is in expediting regulatory approvals and permits.” The inconsistency is obvious; the Company wants more than permits to proceed.
The GH2 filing (page 2.39) also states that: “In the event that there is electricity production beyond what is needed for hydrogen production, it will be sold to customers and delivered through the Island Interconnection System through agreements with NL Hydro and electricity regulators.”
What agreements? What are the terms?
Is the public effectively buying a wind farm on the top of the Muskrat Falls project?
Much more is unexplained, including the strength of the Company’s commitment to develop hydrogen. Would the Government please advise how far along the Company is with “proof of concept”, something many engineers familiar with hydrogen production are not taking for granted.
The public should not think that scalable hydrogen manufacture is as proven nor as easily obtained as are “permits” from the Furey Government.
Who is protecting the public interest?