January 2011

North of 49°
index.html Home    Print    Email

Go to www.ibew.org
Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro Project in the Works

Leaders from Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia reached a $6.2 billion deal in late November that will make the long-proposed lower Churchill Falls hydroelectric generation project a reality.

The Churchill River in Labrador has been a source of renewable energy for years, with the Churchill Falls Generating Station—built in 1971—providing nearly 5,500 megawatts of power. Utility officials and provincial leaders had long wanted to expand production, but difficulties in reaching a transmission agreement with neighboring Quebec put future hydro development on hold.

But the new agreement between Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia allows the expansion to proceed, by building an underwater transmission link between the two provinces.

"The benefits of this project for our province will be enormous, including thousands of jobs and billions of dollars of activity," Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Danny Williams said at the agreement's announcement.

The first stage of the project is the construction of an 824-megawatt generating station at Muskrat Falls, followed by a larger facility upriver at Gull Island. The two facilities will have a combined capacity of more than 3,000 megawatts, says Nalcor Energy, the provincial crown corporation that operates the Churchill Falls plant.

Power will be transmitted to the island of Newfoundland through a $2.1 billion underwater transmission link across the Strait of Belle Isle, which will move power to the province's east coast.

Williams reached a deal with his counterpart in Nova Scotia, Darrell Dexter on Nov. 18, which calls for another transmission link across the Cabot Strait into Nova Scotia. That power will supply the province and others in the Maritimes and be sold in the northeastern United States.

The biggest clean energy project in North America means thousands of jobs for building trades members, including more than a 1,000 jobs for IBEW members from the inside, outside and utility branches.

St. John's Local 1620 Business Manager Terry Rose estimates that transmission line work alone will require more than 500 members. Local 1620 represents outside workers at Newfoundland Power, one of the provinces' electric utilities.

St. John's utility Local 1615 and inside Local 2330 will also be party to the work. While a groundbreaking date has not been set, it is estimated that the project will provide 2,700 jobs at its peak in 2013, according to Nalcor Energy spokesperson Dawn Dalley.

The new project means the end of the oil-burning Holyrood Thermal Generating Station, which employs more than 80 Local 1615 members, but Business Manager Robert Clarke says he is in negotiations with Nalcor Energy to train the workers to find new positions with the company.

"We want to make sure we start the training now so when the station shuts down by 2017, they are ready to start new jobs," he says.

The energy industry has been a boon for the province, which has historically been dogged by a weak job market. The offshore oil industry helped rejuvenate the economy in the 1990s and the new hydro expansion is expected to make the province one of the fastest growing energy markets in Canada.

"A lot of guys who might have took off to the west to look for work in the past are now looking at staying home," says First District International Representative Mike Power.

Energy generated from the planned lower Churchill Falls hydropower project will be transmitted through underwater transmission links from Labrador to the island of Newfoundland and on to Nova Scotia.