Muskrat Falls should proceed now: prof

Gary Kean gkean@thewesternstar.com
Published on December 5, 2012
Gabriela Sabau, associate professor of economics and environmental studies at Grenfell Campus, Memorial University, supports moving ahead with the Muskrat Falls hydroelectricity project.
File photo

CORNER BROOK — Gabriela Sabau thinks the Muskrat Falls project makes sense both economically and ecologically and now is the time to proceed with it.

The associate professor of economics and environmental studies at Grenfell Campus, Memorial University said there is nothing politically motivated about the provincial government forging ahead with the hydroelectric mega-project right now.

“I commend the provincial government for keeping steady on this project,” she said. “It’s a good one and I don’t think we should be postponing it any longer.”

Sabau gave three reasons why Muskrat Falls should be developed.

First of all, she said it makes sense to invest in a new source of renewable, clean energy, as opposed to spending money on upgrading the fossil fuel-dependent power station at Holyrood that currently provides much of the province’s electricity.

In economic circles, she noted, this is known as the energy transition and Newfoundland and Labrador could be the leader of this change towards clean energy.

The second reason is that the project should be done now, while interest rates are at low levels. The project is going to cost Newfoundland and Labrador and partnering Nova Scotia more than $7 billion and the federal government has committed to a loan guarantee for $6.3 billion of that amount.

“If this loan is going to be guaranteed by the federal government, that’s going to diminish the amount our province and Nova Scotia is going to be burdened with to repay,” she said.

The third reason cited by Sabau is that Muskrat Falls is crucial for the development of the provincial economy. In addition to thousands of good-paying jobs during construction, she said there will eventually be affordable power that will help attract business and investment.

Sabau foresees that economic development going beyond the obvious power-hungry sectors like mining.

While it may be dependent on government exercising regulatory control, Sabau said residents and business alike will eventually reap the benefits of affordable, clean energy.

“The initial cost of the infrastructure is really high and those initial costs need to be paid up front,” she said.

It is the long-term nature of the project’s benefits that Sabau approves of the most.

“Why shouldn’t we leave to our children something that is clean and efficient and is going to stay?” she asks. “The infrastructure with his project will be a source of economic stability for this province.”