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Manitoba electricity may flow westward

Saskatchewan deal close to completion

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Saskatchewan is close to a deal with Manitoba to buy hydroelectric power from northern dams to meet its growing residential and industrial demand.

"There's a lot of interest," Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall said Monday at the end of a one-day meeting in Winnipeg of leaders of Canada's western provinces and territories.

"I can just tell you in a very general way that we've been talking to Manitoba in detail about what's possible in the northern parts of our respective provinces and I think, frankly, you're going to see some progress, you're going to see, potentially, some details come out here before the end of summer if negotiations can be concluded. It makes a lot of sense."

Such an export deal for Manitoba would let its western neighbour meet its growing power demand and diversify from its own use of coal for energy production. Coal is the primary source of energy in Saskatchewan, accounting for more than 40 per cent of the province's available power capacity and the majority of its base-load capacity.

At the same time, Saskatchewan estimates over the next 10 years it will need enough additional electricity to supply power to about 110,000 new households, roughly a city the size of Saskatoon. The province also needs more power for its growing potash and uranium-mining industries.

Wall would not discuss how much power his province was considering buying. In 2010, the two provinces agreed to increase power transmission between them by 150 megawatts.

Such a deal has been at the negotiating table for the past four years and if signed could give more ammunition for the Selinger New Democrat's support of Manitoba Hydro's proposed construction of the Keeyask and Conawapa generating stations on the Nelson River. The two dams are estimated to cost $16.5 billion.

The two provinces signed a memorandum of understanding two years ago for Saskatchewan to examine purchasing surplus energy from the proposed Conawapa and Keeyask dams and possibly buying additional power in 2025 and beyond from Gillam Island, a proposed 1,000-megawatt project on the Nelson River.

Premier Greg Selinger also said a power-sale deal to Saskatchewan is close to completion, but wouldn't discuss any specifics.

He said by building Keeyask and Conawapa over the next 12 years, hydro power from the two dams can be sold on the export market and still meet the province's own needs over the next decade.

"So any sale to another jurisdiction allows us to reduce the costs of providing power back home," he said.

If the two provinces agree to a deal this fall, it would coincide with a special hearing by the Public Utilities Board in what's called a Needs For and Alternatives To review on the Keeyask and Conawapa projects. The province's Clean Environment Commission is also slated to begin environmental hearings on the Keeyask project.

Also on the energy agenda, the leaders of the western provinces and territories discussed a proposal by TransCanada Corp. to convert an existing natural gas pipeline to carry crude oil from the West into Quebec, with the possibility of a 1,400-kilometre extension to Saint John, N.B.

They also talked about economic issues like employment and training and increased immigration, infrastructure, housing, foreign investment, water quality and disaster-relief compensation from Ottawa.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 18, 2013 A5


Updated on Tuesday, June 18, 2013 at 8:32 AM CDT: adds video, adds sidebar

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