MANITOBA Hydro's construction of the $3.28-billion Bipole III transmission line should be delayed until 2025 in favour of bringing even more reliability to the province's power grid.
The recommendation was made this week to the province's Clean Environment Commission by two former Hydro executives on behalf of the Bipole III Coalition. The coalition, made up of former Hydro employees and farm groups, supports building the new bipole line on the east side of the province.
Art Derry, a retired vice-president from Manitoba Hydro, who was involved in the construction of the Limestone dam in the late 1980s, and retired senior Hydro transmission planner Dennis Woodford told the commission the Crown utility should first reconfigure its power distribution system at Winnipeg by building a new converter station southeast of the city in LaVerendrye.
That way, when Bipole III is finally built, it can terminate at that station, and the already existing two bipoles can be branched off, one ending at the Dorsey station north east of the city -- it was built in the 1960s -- and the other at the Riel station which is currently under construction.
Derry said while such a reworking of the power delivery system from northern dams would come with an initial cost, ultimately it would save money because it would shorten the route of Bipole III by about 125 kilometres, affecting fewer landowners, and would bring even more long-term reliability to the system. Hydro could also use underground cables for part of the route.
"Planning is not a rocket science, it's just common sense," Derry told the commission. The commission sits until the end of next week and is expected to hand its recommendations to the province this spring.
"Manitoba Hydro needs to spend more time looking at the many options that are possible beyond this fixed-in-stone scenario that they are bringing before this commission," Woodford said.
Manitoba Hydro has said it plans such a separation of the three bipole lines -- Bipoles I and II terminate at Dorsey -- but only after Bipole III is built.
Hydro argues to do it before then could sacrifice power delivery to Manitoba customers.
Manitoba Hydro has said it needs the new bipole, to run down the west side of the province, to be in service by 2017 to deliver more power to southern Manitoba.
The addition of the new line, which is to terminate at the new Riel station, also allows Hydro to send 250 megawatts to Minnesota by 2020.