Nunavut MLA complains about delays on new power plant for Grise Fiord
Grise Fiord power plant oldest in the Baffin region
Tight finances and changing priorities at Nunavut’s Qulliq Energy Corp. mean some communities in Nunavut will continue to wait for new diesel power plants.
People in Grise Fiord thought a new power plant would go up in their community this year, Quttiktuq MLA Ron Elliott said March 5 in the Nunavut legislature,
But Monica Ell, minister responsible for the Qulliq Energy Corp., told him there are no plans to renovate or replace the aging power plant in Grise Fiord.
What she did promise: annual reviews of the situation as well as more discussions between the department of Community and Government Services and the Hamlet of Grise Fiord.
“There was a time where we had a flood a few years back up there, and the Qulliq Energy Corp. and CGS [community and government services] were having discussions about building a plant. [Instead] CGS made plans to put a culvert around the plant to help deal with flooding during the spring and water accumulating around the plant,” she said.
A January 2011 QEC assessment of infrastructure in Nunavut’s Baffin region found the Grise Fiord power plant, built in 1963 (and the oldest power plant in the Baffin region), was “poor condition; foundation degradation; flooding, too small.”
That document listed a new power plant for the community as a priority.
But the QEC’s corporate plan for 2011-16, which says power plants are designed to function for 40 to 50 years, admits “the financial capacity to support a replacement plant may not exist in some of Nunavut’s smallest communities,” said Elliott, noting Grise Fiord’s small size.
Ell said that when it comes time to replace power plants, usually the department prioritizes the older plants.
She said QEC are looking at Iqaluit, “which has the oldest functioning power plant” — although QEC has listed its construction date as 1964.
The Iqaluit power plant is now under renovation, work that is slated to be completed in 2013, Ell said.
Three other communities are now on QEC’s priority list for new power plants: Cape Dorset, Qikiqtarjuaq, and Taloyoak followed by Arctic Bay, Chesterfield Inlet, Gjoa Haven, Kugaaruk, and Arviat.
“Grise Fiord is currently not in the plans for renovations, but I’m sure that it is going to be considered after they have reviewed the age and capacity of the power plants in the communities,” Ell said.
Elliott asked whether the public-private partnership approach to financing major projects, such as the future hydroelectric development near Iqaluit, could be considered when constructing new power plants in communities outside of Iqaluit.
“Currently, with the hydroelectric development near Iqaluit, we are looking at funding from all sources, but we have only been approved for the planning stage, not for the construction of this hydroelectric development. We are going to keep looking for sources of funding,” Ell said.
If there is money available and if they are approved, we can start with the development of the hydroelectric project after the planning stage is completed, she said.
In earlier questions about the status of the GN’s debt position, Keith Peterson, Nunavut’s minister of finance appeared to “pour cold water” on the idea of QEC taking on significant new debt, said Elliott, asking how the power corporation is working with the GN, through its Public Agencies Council, to address the issue of debt.
After Ell asked for a clarification on the question, Elliott responded that “in simplest terms, I asked the minister of finance last week, ‘Do we have the money to pay for this huge project?’ And he said, ‘The coffers are empty, we’re broke, and we don’t have the money. We’re balancing our budget and trying to make it work, but we don’t have the cash.’”
Elliott said he wanted to know that if QEC doesn’t have the money for a large scale project, why spend “hundreds of thousands of dollars” to work towards planning something like the Iqaluit hydroelectric project that the government wouldn’t be able to build.
Ell said that the GN is looking for alternative sources of funding.
Fred Schell also asked about the status of the planned new power plant in Cape Dorset.
The QEC annual report from 2011-12 said the QEC’s application for the replacement of Cape Dorset’s power plant was approved in June of 2011, Schell said.
However, it also said limited progress had been achieved as QEC is “unable to secure an appropriate site to construct a new facility” he said.
“The reason for that is due to the topography of Cape Dorset, particularly the land where they want to build a new power plant,” Ell said.
A new plant will be built next to the existing plant built in 1964, which the QEC said was in poor condition and lacked the needed capacity.