Premier Greg Selinger flew to Washington, D.C., Friday afternoon as part of a mission to sell Manitoba Hydro and the power it produces to American leaders -- the same day the Crown utility said it had posted a net loss of $38 million for the first nine months of the fiscal year.
In its third-quarter results, Hydro blamed decreased revenues from out-of-province sales for the red ink. Last year, it earned profits of $29 million during the same period.
Hydro blames its decreased revenues on lower out-of-province surplus power sales that are partly due to less demand in the United States, caused by a still-recovering U.S. economy and competition from lower natural gas prices.
In its third-quarter report, Hydro said extra-provincial revenues of $280 million were $22 million, or seven per cent lower than the same period last year, and that energy sold in the export market was 7.6 billion kilowatt-hours compared with 8.8 billion kilowatt-hours in the same period last year.
Selinger said despite market conditions, Americans still value what Hydro offers as a reliable product to augment their own power production, made up mostly of thermal, nuclear and wind. Manitoba's U.S. customers are utilities in Minnesota and Wisconsin.
"We have strong customers," Selinger said. "They're very clear that what they're interested in is Manitoba Hydro. They have wind, they have coal, they have nuclear, but what they don't have is hydro. They'd like a long-term relationship and they've made that very clear to me. It allows them to diversify their energy.
"They are absolutely surprised that anyone would think it's a bad idea to develop hydro for export."
Selinger is to spend the weekend attending the National Governor's Association meeting in Washington and is to meet with several senators including Sen. Ron Wyden, chairman of the Senate committee on energy and natural resources, to talk about selling hydro power from Canada to U.S.
Scott Thomson, president and CEO of Manitoba Hydro, is accompanying the premier.
Depending on the results of a rate increase application currently before the Manitoba Public Utilities Board, the Crown corporation said it could still post a profit of $30 million for the entire year.
Hydro has asked for a 3.5 per cent rate increase April 1. The PUB is to release its decision shortly.
Hydro said its consolidated net loss of $38 million was comprised of a $24-million loss in the electricity sector and a $14 million loss in the natural gas sector.
The loss in the natural gas sector is the result of seasonal variations in the demand for natural gas and should be recouped over the winter heating season, Hydro said.
The province's Clean Environment Commission said Friday its hearings into Manitoba Hydro's new Bipole III transmission line from northern Manitoba to Winnipeg are to resume March 4 at the Fort Garry Spa and Conference Centre.