Energy agency still not a go

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A year ago, the Selinger government promised to create an independent agency to manage Manitoba's energy needs and run its conservation programs.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 15/07/2015 (2812 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

A year ago, the Selinger government promised to create an independent agency to manage Manitoba’s energy needs and run its conservation programs.

But efforts to set up such an agency remain on the drawing board.

The establishment of an arm’s-length organization was recommended by the Public Utilities Board a year ago after its lengthy hearing into Manitoba Hydro’s dam and transmission line building plans.

The PUB said Manitoba Hydro should be divested of its role in managing energy-efficiency programs because there is “an inherent conflict of interest” in Hydro being both a seller of electricity and vendor for energy efficiency measures.

Manitoba Hydro balked at that recommendation — its Power Smart initiatives have become well-entrenched in Hydro’s operations — but agreed to work with the government to switch over energy-efficiency programs, known also as demand-side management, to a new agency.

Government spokesman Caedmon Malowany said that process is still evolving.

“We have contracted a leading North American expert in energy efficiency and efficiency delivery models to help assess the best way to design, deliver and monitor energy efficiency and conservation measures,” he said Tuesday.

“The objective is to ensure any solution reflects the intent of the PUB’s recommendations and that we focus on a model that is cost-effective and provides Manitobans the maximum savings on their energy bills. Work continues on developing this new efficiency model.”

That expert is Montreal consultant Philippe Dunsky, whose expertise is energy efficiency and renewable energy. It’s not known how far along Dunsky is in his work, although one source said he submitted his report to government in January.

The PUB’s recommendation was to treat energy efficiency as a stand-alone resource, as many U.S. states now do under a federal plan to reduce the number of older coal-burning plants by as much as 30 per cent by 2030.

The PUB said energy efficiency should be treated equally along with hydro power, wind, solar, gas generation or other technologies, and it should be done before any more money is spent or consideration given to building the proposed Conawapa generating station. Conawapa would be the largest dam of its kind in Manitoba, but work was suspended last August until Hydro could sign up more customers for its power.

Energy efficiency was once the work of the former Manitoba Energy Authority, established by the Progressive Conservative government of Sterling Lyon in the early 1980s in response to a government-ordered report by justice George Tritschler. The report examined Hydro’s operations and cost overruns on the Long Spruce and Jenpeg dams, built in the 1970s under the NDP government of Ed Schreyer.

The MEA and the Manitoba Energy Council, a five-member citizens advisory body, were disbanded when Gary Filmon’s PC government repealed the 1987 Manitoba Energy Authority Act under its 1994 Energy Act. Manitoba Hydro inherited the responsibility for administering energy efficiency programs at that time.

The NDP government under former premier Gary Doer had planned in 2003 to create an independent agency to run all energy efficiency, renewable energy, water conservation and waste minimization programs. The agency was expected to be in operation by the fall of 2004, but it never got off the ground.


Updated on Wednesday, July 15, 2015 6:18 AM CDT: Adds photo

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