Time is growing short for a decision on whether to build two hydro-electric generating stations in the province's north, Manitoba Hydro says.
In a document posted on its website Friday, the Crown power utility argues the Keeyask and Conawapa generating stations are needed 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.
'...Continuing to develop our hydropower resources is in the best long-term interest of Manitoba Hydro customers and the province of Manitoba'
The document is Hydro's Needs For and Alternatives To (NFAT) submission and it's been filed with the Manitoba Public Utilities Board (PUB), which is in the process of scheduling a hearing to see if the two dams are needed or whether there is something else -- and less costly -- Hydro can do to meet forecasted demands.
"Our analysis demonstrates that continuing to develop our hydropower resources is in the best long-term interest of Manitoba Hydro customers and the province of Manitoba," Manitoba Hydro president and CEO Scott Thomson said in a statement.
Hydro's preferred plan is no surprise as it's been the mantra of the ruling NDP for about the past decade.
The provincial government says while the cost of the two dams is high, the payoff to Manitobans through more export sales is bigger.
That's based partly on the phasing out of coal-burning plants in the United States and Canada and an increased pressure on both countries for renewable energy, such as hydro-electric power, in the makeup of a total state, provincial and civic power supply.
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 is 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.
Hydro's and the NDP's vision for the future is not without critics. 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.
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 PUB is scheduled to hold public hearings during the winter and spring of 2014 and is to issue a report to the Manitoba government by June 20, 2014.