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Labrador data centres part of Muskrat Falls Rate Mitigation Framework

James Goodwin, right, president and CEO of Great North Data, has the floor while fellow panelist Brent Howell of the College of the North Atlantic's Corner Brook campus listens during a Diversity Summit 2018 session at the civic centre in Corner Brook Tuesday.
James Goodwin, right, president and CEO of Great North Data, thinks this could be a great opportunity for Labrador. - Gary Kean

Province hopes to expand industry


The provincial government has released a Muskrat Falls Rate Mitigation Framework and one of the areas highlighted for revenue was the data centre sector in Labrador.

“There are presently 320 megawatts of new outstanding service requests from data centres in Labrador,” the framework read, which was released April 15.

“North American electricity rate comparisons demonstrate higher value can be achieved from this sector in Labrador while remaining competitive.”

The framework says the province will be working on a new, competitive electricity rate for data centres.

One person who is happy to hear the news the government is on board with increasing the potential for data centres in Labrador is James Goodwin, president and CEO of Great North Data, which has operations in Happy Valley-Goose Bay and Labrador West.

“We were thrilled,” he told the Labrador Voice. “We’ve been saying this to anyone who will listen for a few years now. Unfortunately for the province, exporting electricity just wasn’t attractive anymore, but the demands for our industry has been growing by leaps and bounds.”

He said they see a huge opportunity in Labrador, especially in the Happy Valley-Goose Bay area because of the physical proximity to Muskrat Falls. He said transmission lines would be less costly to build to the town and there would be a negligible amount of power loss over the transmission lines since it is so close.

Goodwin made an application to the Public Utilities board last year for a transmission line directly connected to Muskrat Falls, not the Churchill Falls grid. His operations in Labrador right now are connected to Churchill Falls, which has one of the lowest electricity rates in the country. Muskrat Falls power would be more expensive but Goodwin said as long as the province keeps it competitive its workable.

“We expect to pay a higher rate for Muskrat Falls power,” he said. “We obviously love the Churchill grid, that’s a huge competitive advantage for us. We’re prepared to pay more as long as it comes with a long-term contract and certainty.”

He said it would actually make things more stable since the PUB could change the rates on the Churchill Falls grid any time but if there were contracts in place for the rates from Muskrat the rates would not change.

He stressed while they understand it would be more expensive than Churchill Falls power it would still have to be cheaper rates than Quebec to make this plan from the province work.

They think it’s a win-win for everyone, he said, since they need the power, the province is looking to sell power and the community can have some economic spinoff.

“It brings in jobs, money, it’s a good opportunity for Goose Bay,” he said. “There are lots of people who want to set up shop here. Overnight Goose Bay could rival some of the interiors of China in terms of crypto currency mining.”

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