Manitobans will have to wait another month to learn how Efficiency Manitoba proposes to achieve legislated energy-savings targets for electricity and natural gas use.
The fledgling Crown corporation was due to submit its first three-year plan to the Public Utilities Board of Manitoba by Oct. 1, but never did so.
When the Free Press asked Efficiency Manitoba on Wednesday about its submission, the corporation referred a reporter to the minister responsible of Crown Services: Jeff Wharton.
Wharton, who was given responsibility for the file last week, said in an interview late in the day he wanted more time to review the submission before it went to the PUB.
He later said, through an intermediary, the provincial cabinet had, that day, amended a regulation that allowed Efficiency Manitoba to submit its plans to the PUB on Nov. 1, without breaking the law.
Under rules brought in by the Pallister government, Efficiency Manitoba had to submit its three-year energy-savings proposals to the regulator six months before they took effect. The new corporation will assume responsibility for delivering energy efficiency programming from Manitoba Hydro on April 1.
Cabinet passed a regulation Wednesday to allow Energy Manitoba to submit its proposals for the PUB for review five months before they are scheduled to take effect.
Wharton complimented Efficiency Manitoba's board on the work it has done so far to get the corporation up and running. "The work they've done is fabulous. It's great work," he said.
He said he requested the corporation delay its submission by a month, so he could be assured proper comparisons were being carried out between past energy-savings programs and the new corporation's plans for the future. He said he also wanted to ensure the corporation's proposals were aligned with the government's overall policies.
Wharton said he was confident, despite the month-long delay, Efficiency Manitoba would still be able to assume its responsibility April 1.
The Public Utilities board recommended in 2014 Manitoba Hydro divest itself of its energy-savings programs and the province establish a new arm's-length entity to carry out the work.
In 2017, the Pallister government introduced legislation creating Efficiency Manitoba as a standalone Crown corporation to deliver energy-efficiency programs. The corporation is tasked with developing a strategy for producing electrical savings of 1.5 per cent annually, and natural gas savings of 0.75 per cent annually, over a 15-year period.
NDP MLA Adrien Sala said he is concerned the process has been delayed.
Not only has the minister interfered with the board of Efficiency Manitoba by delaying this submission, but he has attempted to paper over his breach of the law by making a last-minute regulation change," Sala charged Wednesday. "Manitobans deserve better from their government.
A little over a year ago, the Pallister government ordered Manitoba Hydro to halt all non-essential advertising of its Power Smart program while energy-efficiency initiatives were being transferred to Efficiency Manitoba. This was done as the contract between Manitoba Hydro and B.C. Hydro, which owns the Power Smart brand, was about to come to an end last fall.
In January, Colleen Kuruluk, the former longtime manager of Manitoba Hydro's Power Smart programs, became the first full-time chief executive officer of Efficiency Manitoba.
A spokeswoman for the new corporation said Wednesday it now has five employees, who are responsible for start-up operations.
Manitoba Hydro continues to operate energy-efficiency programs until the changeover takes place in the spring. Under law, Hydro is responsible for covering EM's start-up costs, as well as its future operating costs.
Wharton said Wednesday the government expects the new corporation to run a lean operation while still being more effective than Manitoba Hydro in achieving energy savings.