CBC News

Posted: Nov 07, 2018 10:31 AM CT


The newly created Manitoba Energy Council is offering its expertise to Manitoba Hydro to promote the "efficient and beneficial use of our electricity in the future.

A group formed to raise public awareness and lobby against Manitoba Hydro's Bipole III route through farmland west of Lake Manitoba has called it quits.

The Bipole III Coalition announced on Wednesday it is disbanding, since the Bipole III transmission line is now complete along the western route, rather than the shorter, less-expensive eastern route backed by the coalition.

However, several members of the group, created in 2010 by retired engineers and Hydro executives, university professors and landowners impacted by the line — and later adding representatives with backgrounds in energy regulation and research — have not completely folded their tents.

They are establishing a new group called the Manitoba Energy Council. The group, which says it is not affiliated with any political party, stated in a news release that it will offer Manitoba Hydro its experts' advice and feedback about "ways to promote the economic, efficient and beneficial use of our electricity in the future."

The Manitoba Energy Council said it wants, in particular, to focus on ways to find productive and profitable uses for the surplus energy that will be created with the new transmission line over the next 25 years.

In the early 2000s, the province's then-NDP government announced the BiPole III transmission line would be built on the west side of Lake Winnipeg to avoid running it through a proposed UNESCO site on the east side.

The project also came with two northern mega projects — generating stations at Wuskwatim and Keeyask.

After the Progressive Conservatives were elected in 2016, they warned UNESCO that rerouting the Bipole III transmission line through the area was not out of the question, but a review of the project determined that plans were too far along and it would be too expensive to change.

The line was was originally pegged in 2007 to cost $2.2 billion, which was adjusted to $3.3 billion in 2011 and $4.6 billion in 2014. In its latest annual report, Hydro says the total estimated cost is $5.04 billion.

The Keeyask generating station project was originally estimated to cost $6.5 billion and expected to be in service by November 2019. In March 2017, Hydro revised the cost estimate to $8.7 billion.

The Bipole III Coalition said those costs are proof that most of what the group predicted has come to pass.

Meanwhile, farmers whose land is in the path of the transmission line are just beginning to deal with the cost, the inconvenience and the risk of towers in a line that splits their fields into parts, the coalition stated in its news release.

The fallout will continue over the life of the line, possibly for the next 100 years.