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Massive hydroelectric project could help with climate change

Feb 6, 2007 The Associated Press

Newfoundland Premier Danny Williams cast himself as an environmental champion Tuesday, saying the proposed Lower Churchill hydroelectric development could help Canada dramatically reduce its greenhouse gas emissions.

Williams made the bold claim in the body of a statement that confirmed Newfoundland's Crown-owned electric utility had applied to transmit power through New Brunswick to the rest of the Maritimes and the huge U.S. market.

The application was necessary because Williams has said electricity from Labrador could be sent through sub-sea, high-voltage cables to New Brunswick if the utility fails to reach a transmission deal with Hydro Quebec.

But the outspoken premier made it clear he has a loftier goal in mind as he pushes ahead with a multibillion-dollar proposal to build two hydroelectric dams downstream from the existing Churchill Falls power plant.

"The Lower Churchill project has great potential as a long-term, reliable, clean electricity supply that can contribute to a made-in Canada solution to meeting our nation's clean energy requirements," Williams said.

"The recent heightened attention to climate change reinforces our view that new hydroelectric development has an important role to play in reducing greenhouse gas emissions from power generation."

Williams said the Labrador project is ideal because it would fulfill Canada's desire to produce more "environmentally sensitive" energy.

Kathy Dunderdale, Newfoundland's natural resources minister, said the new dams could displace 16 megatonnes of carbon dioxide that would otherwise be produced from coal-fired generating stations.

Federal Environment Minister John Baird has said the Conservative government will not set national targets for cutting greenhouse emissions even though it is committed to reducing pollution that contributes to climate change.

Under the former Liberal government's plan to implement the Kyoto protocol on climate change, Canada committed to cutting 100 megatonnes of greenhouse gases - made up mainly of carbon dioxide - by 2010.

In Newfoundland, the Lower Churchill project has been on the drawing board in one form or another for about 30 years. A final decision on its feasibility will be made by 2009 with first power expected no sooner than 2015.

Williams said that when environmental concerns and market demands are considered, the timing for the Lower Churchill project "could not be more perfect."

Still, the project is far from a done deal.

There is no financing in place and the project also requires an environmental assessment, an impact and benefit agreement with the Labrador Innu, commercial terms and engineering planning.

If approved, the dams at Muskrat Falls and Gull Island would produce 2,800 megawatts of electricity, enough to supply about 1.5 million homes.


Updated: 2003/07/28