Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

No decision on hydro gas plant for 4 years

"Flexible' plan dependent on economic conditions

  • Print
Manitoba Hydro President and CEO Scott Thomson

WAYNE GLOWACKI/WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES Enlarge Image

Manitoba Hydro President and CEO Scott Thomson Photo Store

It's been dubbed Plan 5 and it doesn't include the proposed Conawapa mega-generating station.

Instead of building the estimated $10.7-billion Conawapa dam in the next few years, Manitoba Hydro has floated the idea of building a cheaper natural gas-burning plant to produce electricity.

Hydro president and CEO Scott Thomson said a decision to build a gas plant will be based on what makes the most economic sense when a final decision on Conawapa's fate is needed in about four years. Thomson spoke at a Building Owners and Managers Association luncheon on Wednesday.

"Our plan has the built-in flexibility to delay Conawapa or even delay it indefinitely," Thomson said. "The Conawapa generating station will only get built if the business case remains sound."

Thomson's comments come as critics, including Brian Pallister's Progressive Conservatives, argue Hydro and the NDP government are rushing into a decision to build the Keeyask and Conawapa dams without doing enough homework.

Premier Greg Selinger has said a recent export-power deal with Green Bay-based Wisconsin Public Service (WPS) for 308 megawatts of firm power for up to 10 years would trigger development of Conawapa on the Nelson River.

But under Plan 5 the WPS export sale could be designated as being supplied out of Keeyask, and Manitoba's own power needs would be met by new natural gas-fired, combined-cycle combustion turbines. A combustion turbine that produces 480 megawatts of electricity costs about $500 million to build.

Thomson said in a interview the advent of new drilling (fracking) techniques to extract once-untouchable sources of cheap natural gas changed the energy market and, if gas prices stay low over the next four years, Conawapa may not get built.

"If interest rates and construction costs go up dramatically, and if gas and electricity prices stay low, then that would be problematic for more hydro (Conawapa)," Thomson said. "But generating with natural gas is not an efficient way to go. The best combined-cycle gas plants are about 60 per cent efficient."

Plan 5 was presented as one of several options to the Public Utilities Board earlier this week as part of a wider presentation by Hydro officials on the need for new electricity generation in the province, export and transmission opportunities and an economic evaluation of all alternatives. The hearing is last into late May and the PUB is to report back June 20.

Hydro has also produced a plan for all natural gas generation if it does not get regulatory approval to build the $6.5-billion Keeyask dam and a new transmission line from Winnipeg to Duluth, Minn. Hydro wants Keeyask in service by 2019 and the line built -- Hydro will own 49 per cent of it and share in its construction -- by 2020 to meet export commitments.

Hydro is banking that tougher carbon emissions standards in the United States, closing numerous coal plants in the American Midwest, and state laws that require American utilities to sell a percentage of their electricity from renewable sources will earn billions for the province.

Hydro officials told the PUB there has been $10.3 billion in export revenues to the province since 1960. The Limestone generating station alone has earned more than $6 billion for a plant that cost $1.6 billion to build when it opened in 1990.

Hydro said last week it wants a 3.95 per cent general rate increase effective April 1 to generate $56 million in 2014-15, money it says it needs to help it build Keeyask and the 850-kilometre line to Minnesota, estimated to cost about $775 million.

bruce.owen@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 13, 2014 A14

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Raw: Video shows destroyed West Hawk Inn

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • A water lily in full bloom is reflected in the pond at the Leo Mol Sculpture Garden Tuesday afternoon. Standup photo. Sept 11,  2012 (Ruth Bonneville/Winnipeg Free Press)
  • JOE.BRYKSA@FREEPRESS.MB.CA Local-(Standup photo)- Humming Around- A female ruby -throated hummingbird fly's through the bee bomb  flowers Friday at the Assiniboine Park English Garden- Nectar from flowers are their main source of food. Hummingbirds wings can beat as fast as 75x times second. Better get a glimpse of them soon the birds fly far south for the winter - from Mexico to South America- JOE BRYKSA/WINNIPEG FREE PRESS- Sept 10, 2009

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

What do you think of the new school-zone speed limit?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google