Clarifying recent reporting regarding combustion turbines and the plan for our energy future

Contrary to recent reporting, there is no decision to move forward with an application to construct a combustion turbine at this time. We would like to clear up any confusion that may have resulted from these reports.

First, we remain committed to supporting the growth of renewable energy supply, one of 11 goals highlighted in our strategic plan.

Taking action against climate change includes using less fossil fuels in our economy. This results in new public policies such as moving to electric vehicles and moving away from oil to heat homes. Hydro takes these public policies and as they evolve, translates them into how much more electricity will be required in the coming decades. As Muskrat Falls was mostly a replacement for Holyrood, the current supply is insufficient to meet this rapidly growing demand and so new supply options must be examined. Generally, every utility in Canada is facing the same decisions to add new supply sources to their system as most utilities have to at least double the size of their system by 2050.

As we plan for the future of the energy system—preparing for growth, balancing reliability, and meeting our environmental commitments—we are exploring many options for new supply. We are also committed to consider the lessons of decisions past and this means we will examine all viable options in a public and transparent fashion through the Public Utilities Board (PUB). Exploring ALL viable options is asked of us by the PUB, expected of us by our customers, and it is both responsible and best practice for our industry. We must ensure we are choosing the best path forward for our province and our customers. These examinations take months and in some instances several years to get to final conclusion. That lengthy and thorough examination protects against hurried decisions done behind closed doors. We are committed to avoiding just that and so we will act with urgency but also with thorough public examination of viable options.

Many electricity systems use a mix of various sources to supply electricity—base load supply, peaking supply and emergency supply. As our system grows, we have to consider what are the best options for each electricity need. An option for a base load plant is NOT a good option for emergency back up, and regulations are different for each. Typically, a combustion turbine would be used for emergency or peaking. Hydroelectric plants are great base load plants if the water resource matches.

The energy system is in transition, and we will have many decisions ahead. As we look to the next year, 5 years, 10 years, we don’t look at any source of new generation in isolation of other options. Keeping the system balanced requires extensive coordination and consideration of how current and potential new assets can work best to serve our customers. One of many studies underway does explore the feasibility of Combustion Turbines. We must make it clear that as we consider a combustion turbine, we are also examining how to convert such a combustion turbine to using renewable fuels when such fuels become more available in the future. Indeed, there are already combustion turbines available that can accept some renewable fuels, and technology will improve here, so to suggest that a combustion turbine acquired today would require fossil fuels for the next 30-40 years is not accurate. We are confident access to renewable fuels will improve in the coming years, maybe even available provincially with hydrogen creation being actively explored by several private companies on the island. We also have ongoing studies exploring wind and hydrogen integration, studies exploring upgrades and expansions of existing hydroelectric assets. All of these studies inform how any potential new asset could be best integrated into the system, however no decision has been made regarding new generation. All studies, analysis, and recommendations will culminate in the next plan we file with the PUB.

We know it can be worrying reading one story about a single supply option that is being considered. Please, let us assure you that there are dozens of studies and many parties at the PUB that are reviewing in great detail all the considerations for this next decision we take, and the many others we will have to take in the coming decades. While we remain appropriately subject to and welcome public scrutiny through media reporting, one story in the news does not paint a fulsome picture of any supply decisions under consideration.

Finally, before finalizing any decision, we need more information, and that also includes hearing from electricity customers. We will be engaging the public for their thoughts this fall, and invite you to have a voice in these important decisions.