Winnipeg Free Press - ONLINE EDITION
Posted: 01/30/2014 4:12 PM | Comments: 0
Manitoba Hydro’s dam-building plan goes under the microscope starting March 3.
That the day the long-awaited Needs For and Alternatives To (NFAT) hearing begins at the Public Utilities Board.
The hearing is scheduled to end May 3.
The Crown power utility says it needs to build the Keeyask and Conawapa generating stations in the next decade not only to meet the province's energy needs, but to meet demands south of the border and to the east and west.
Hydro's plan calls for the start of construction of the 695-megawatt Keeyask generating station in June 2014, with the first turbine to start spinning by 2019. That’s to be followed by construction of the 1,485-megawatt Conawapa generating station, with a 2026 in-service date.
The forecasted price tag for Keeyask is $6.2 billion and Conawapa is estimated to cost $10.2 billion. There will be an additional cost of running a transmission line to the Minnesota border.
The NFAT hearing will examine if this plan is too pricey for the province, especially in light of how the North American energy market has shifted with the advent of cheap shale gas extraction by fracking.
Hydro says its NFAT submission offers the most detailed review of future options for meeting Manitoba's electricity demand. It includes 15 different plans over 27 scenarios involving more than 400 cases. The full NFAT submission is available on Hydro's website.
Hydro says alternatives to its dam-building plan include increased energy conservation by Manitobans, burning cheap natural gas to produce power, adding more wind farms and even importing power at peak times. The timing of Conawapa could also be pushed back depending on what happens in the energy markets.
The Progressive Conservatives say the plan is too costly for Manitobans -- it in part relies on a series of annual rate hikes to pay for it -- and others say the government's terms of reference for the NFAT review are too narrow. There is also concern the public won't have adequate input in the NFAT hearing.
The PUB is to issue its report to the Manitoba government by June 20.
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