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PLAN 5: No Conawapa

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Just so we're clear, Plan 5 has nothing to with the 1959 movie.

Plan 5 is Manitoba's Hydro's alternate vision of the province's energy future.

Their preferred vision is the Keeyask generating station by 2019, a new 750-megawatt transmission line to the United States by 2020 and the Conawapa generating station by 2026.

The Public Utilities Board is examining Hydro's plan and if there are better options to supply electricity to the region.

But during a hearing last week into this preferred plan, Hydro presented a tweaked version: Plan 5. 

And the Crown utility made sure everyone in the hearing room took notice, even a schlub like me (Plan 5 is also known as K19/Gas/750MW).

Here's Hydro's Joannne Flynn, the manager of Power Planning, in her testimony to the PUB:

"I'll just draw your attention to Plan 5 which appears on the left-hand side, and consists of Keeyask in 2019 followed by natural gas generation with a 750 megawatt interconnection, and is listed as including both the WPS sale and investment in the line," she said, referring to the transmission line and the recently announced power sale to Wisconsin Public Service.

"The WPS sale could be designated as being supplied out of Keeyask, although we may new -- need new resources to meet Manitoba load, and in this plan those would be natural gas resources. So you do see a plan that has a WPS sale in it without Conawapa."

Hydro's Ed Wojczynski, the senior executive responsible for the utility's submission to the PUB, took it a step further in his testimony.

He a told the PUB that a final decision on Conawapa isn't needed right away, perhaps not for four years. (Which begs the question why the Selinger government included it on the terms of reference for the PUB hearing. Seems to me a lot of time and money is being wasted, but maybe that's just me).

Here's Wojczynski:

"In our view, we only have three pathways left that are viable options that are worth considering. Should we go with gas initially? Should we go with Keeyask initially without an interconnection? Or should we go with Keeyask and the 750 megawatt interconnection with the various sales we've been talking about? And in our view, those are the three decisions that we realistically have in front of us to make.

"Should Keeyask be the next supply? We'd say, Yes, it should be, and in that case, Should we go down the 750 megawatt interconnection route, and make decisions at Con -- without Conawapa at some later date? We don't need to make those commitments today. And we think that that's a fairly logical approach to go."

And on Plan 5? Wojczynski said:

"From Manitoba Hydro's point of view, the overall conclusion is the -- the 750 megawatt line with Keeyask/Gas, and the various sales are justified in Manitoba Hydro's view."

When I reported on this it appears it came as a bit of a shock over on Broadway.

It appears it conflicted with the Selinger government's vision of hydro development. Gas generation, for the NDP, is icky and not in the cards.

Hydro CEO Scott Thomson then fired off a memo to Stan Struthers, the minister responsible for Manitoba Hydro, that building Conawapa in 2026 was indeed still in Hydro's plan - gas was not.

Thomson made it clear that Hydro indeed still subscribes to the NDP's vision of clean and renewable hydro-electric development.

However, Thomson cushioned it with: "Our preferred plan has the flexibility to be adapted if our planning assumptions don't unfold as we anticipate."

Now, given this apparent contradiction between Manitoba Hydro and the NDP, do you think Conawapa will actually ever get built?

I'd say it's dead.

So is the need to jack up hydro rates to pay for it.

Perhaps most important, it appears Manitoba Hydro is doing exactly what it's mandated to do despite what the NDP tell them. 

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About Larry Kusch and Bruce Owen

Larry Kusch has been a journalist for 30 years, the last 20 with the Winnipeg Free Press. His is one of the newspaper's two legislative bureau reporters.

Raised on a Saskatchewan farm, he received an honours journalism degree from Carleton University in 1975.

At the Free Press, Larry has also worked as a general assignment reporter, business reporter, copy editor and assistant city editor.

Bruce Owen joined the Winnipeg Free Press in 1990 after four years working in other media.

He's worked in a number of positions at the Freep, including pet columnist, assistant city editor and police reporter. Right now he takes up space at the Manitoba legislature.

Bruce is one of five reporters who won a National Newspaper Award for the paper’s coverage of the 1997 Flood of the Century. He's also the recipient of the 1996 Volunteer Centre of Winnipeg Media Golden Hand Award and the 1995 Canadian Federation of Humane Societies Media Commendation Award.

In a past life Bruce worked at YMCA-YWCA Camp Stephens. He has a blog where he and others write about camp and the people who worked and played there.

You can also find Bruce on Twitter where he posts and retweets all sorts of stuff.

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