Canada ready to move forward on massive Lower Churchill hydro project

A major hydro electric project in Canada took a big step toward reality recently with the release of a key government report.

The federal government of Canada, plus the Newfoundland and Labrador provincial governments, said March 15 that they support a report of the Joint Review Panel on the Lower Churchill Hydroelectric Generation Project, to be located near Happy Valley-Goose Bay in Labrador.

“This decision is an important step toward realizing the full potential of one of North America’s most ambitious renewable energy projects,” said Peter Penashue, Regional Minister for Newfoundland and Labrador and federal Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs. “It will deliver countless economic benefits to our already flourishing province, to Nova Scotia, and to the rest of Canada.”

The Lower Churchill project, which is being proposed by Nalcor Energy, a Newfoundland and Labrador Crown corporation, is composed of the 2,250-MW Gull Island station, the 824-MW Muskrat Falls station and transmission lines connecting the two facilities to the existing Churchill Falls station.

“Today’s release from the environmental assessment process represents another important milestone and a major step forward as we move towards our decision on final project sanction of Muskrat Falls,” said Jerome Kennedy, Minister of Natural Resources, Government of Newfoundland and Labrador. “Development of the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project will result in countless benefits to our province, the most important being the provision of reliable, least-cost power to meet the growing demand for electricity. We look forward to continuing our work with the federal government to finalize details on a loan guarantee, which represents a tremendous vote of confidence in this renewable energy project.”

The Joint Review Panel was mandated in 2009 to look at the environmental and economic impacts of the project and to consider comments from the public. The panel concluded that the project would result in energy security as well as other benefits. It also found that the project would have several significant adverse environmental effects.

The federal and provincial governments said they weighed all of the identified benefits, effects, risks and uncertainties and found that the project is justified on both economic and environmental grounds. The governments committed to ensuring the implementation of mitigation measures to reduce the adverse environmental impacts identified by the panel. 

The government of Canada will now work on issuing the required authorizations from Fisheries and Oceans Canada and Transport Canada. The federal government is also continuing to work on implementing the memorandum of agreement on a loan guarantee for the project comprising the Muskrat Falls station, the transmission line connecting Muskrat Falls to the existing Churchill Falls site, the Labrador-Island link and the Maritime link.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.