Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Hydro outages not a Bipole III issue

  • Print

In the article Big guns come out against Bipole plan (Oct. 29), it was reported that Stan Struthers, minister responsible for Manitoba Hydro, "said without further hydro development, the province could see repeats of the mid-1970s when blackouts were more common."

During the 1970s, I was a transmission planning engineer with Manitoba Hydro and I am well aware of the large number of power outages that occurred until May 1980. That was when the 500 kV AC transmission line from Winnipeg (Dorsey Station) to the Twin Cities (Chisago Substation) was commissioned and put into operation. From that point on, the number of power outages was reduced but not eliminated. It is well-known fact electric transmission interconnections improve reliability. This was very evident Sept. 5, 1996 when a downburst wind event caused failure of 19 transmission towers that took out operation of Bipoles I and II for a week or less. To my knowledge, no power outage impacted Hydro customers in Manitoba because the interconnections did their job as they were contractually required to do for such an emergency. It is also important to note that since May 1980, no failure in the existing Nelson River HVDC Bipoles I and II transmission lines has caused any power outage or rotating power outages to Hydro customers in Manitoba.

But back to Struthers' statement. Manitoba customers are still experiencing significant power outages, but not due to Bipoles I and II or the interconnections to the U.S., Ontario and Saskatchewan. There are unacceptable power outages occurring quite frequently in Manitoba that we seem to accept as a matter of course.

One example is the ice storm in southeastern Manitoba on Oct. 5, 2012. It caused many Hydro customers to lose electricity for up to five days, but the two high-voltage interconnections to the U.S. that passed through the centre of this ice storm remained in service. Since then, there have been at least 10 more power outages -- some were caused by pole-top fires, a goose, a derailment at Symington Yard, winds and even a raven. Many thousands of customers were deprived of service for hours or days, the durations of which were kept to a minimum by the extraordinary efforts of Manitoba Hydro's linemen.

The Bipole III Coalition presented a very good economic and technical case to the Clean Environment Commission that Bipole III was not needed for some time for the stated purpose of reliability of power supply. This case was either ignored or not understood by the commission. There was minimal reference to this part of the coalition's case in the commission's final report in June.

In the Oct. 29 story, former premier Ed Schreyer made the statement, "Past growth rates and credible projections show a domestic growth rate well within Hydro's present capacity for a few more years." Struthers rebutted: "If we delay and leave Manitoba in a position where we run out of power, then the logical outcome of that is that we will have less investment in this province." This ignores the very credible argument of Schreyer and the evidence that was presented to the Clean Environment Commission by the Bipole III Coalition.

Manitoba Hydro presented evidence to the CEC as to how large the economic cost to Manitobans is when power outages occur. As minister responsible for Hydro, Struthers must get Manitoba Hydro to increase their efforts to make their distribution -- which is distinct from transmission -- supply to Manitobans much more reliable. Furthermore, constructing Bipole III now will do nothing to remedy these ongoing power outages.

Based on historical performance, arguing for Bipole III's construction on the basis of "reliability" is an extremely poor return on investment. Hydro must fix the problems where the power outages are really occurring, which in turn are incurring unaccounted costs of some substance to Manitobans and the provincial economy.


Dennis Woodford is president of an engineering consulting firm in Winnipeg.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 31, 2013 A15

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


  • 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 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 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.


Make text: Larger | Smaller


Stephen Harper announces increased support for Canadian child protection agencies

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • Bright sunflowers lift their heads toward the south east skies in a  large sunflower field on Hwy 206 and #1 Thursday Standup photo. July 31,  2012 (Ruth Bonneville/Winnipeg Free Press)
  • A monarch butterfly looks for nectar in Mexican sunflowers at Winnipeg's Assiniboine Park Monday afternoon-Monarch butterflys start their annual migration usually in late August with the first sign of frost- Standup photo– August 22, 2011   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

View More Gallery Photos


Are you concerned about the number of homicides so far this year?

View Results

Ads by Google