The Selinger government announced today the terms of reference for an in-depth study into the need for Manitoba Hydro to build two new hydro-electric dams in the province’s north.
The terms of reference are part of the of a needs for and alternatives to (NFAT) review being done by the Public Utilities Board (PUB) of Hydro's proposal to build the Keeyask and Conawapa generating stations.
Energy and Mines Minister Dave Chomiak, minister responsible for Manitoba Hydro, said in a release the planned hydro development is needed to meet growing domestic demand and "to take advantage of long-term export opportunities."
Last November, the province said that a PUB panel would conduct the NFAT review of Hydro’s multi-billion dollar plan to build the Keeyask and Conawapa dams and their associated domestic transmission facilities, plus new Canada-U.S. transmission interconnection to bring more power to Minnesota.
The NFAT will see the PUB conduct a public review of Hydro's plans and make an assessment as to whether or not the dams are needed at this time when compared to other options, Chomiak said.
One option already suggested by the PUB is for Hydro to build a new thermal plant to burn cheap natural gas to produce power.
A report, including recommendations, is to be submitted to the province by June 20, 2014.
Critics have said Hydro should not build the two dams at this point because revenue from export sales are a fraction of what they once were due to a sluggish U.S. economy and the wider availability of natural gas.
The PUB is currently weighing a 3.5 per cent rate-hike request from Hydro to help pay for the estimated $20-billion cost for construction of the dams and the Bipole III line down the west side of the province. A decision is expected soon.
The PUB has confirmed the NFAT review will be conducted by a panel of five members including PUB chair Regis Gosselin, Marilyn Kapitany, Larry Soldier, Arthur Mauro and Mel Lazareck.
The PUB is expected to inform the public of how they can participate in the review process in the coming weeks.