The July 2020 edition of Manitoba Hydro’s Energy Matters fails to acknowledge that our increasing exports to the U.S. benefit Americans households, industries and U.S. “green” credentials while Manitobans’ rates rise.
While the completion of the Manitoba Minnesota Transmission Project (MMTP) will strengthen the reliability of the regional (Manitoba-U.S.) power grid, this is only true to a rare extent, just as Hydro casts Bipole III as a “reliability project.” Neither of these so-called “reliability projects” will prevent the dozens of power outages Hydro has each month a!ecting thousands of customers.
In other jurisdictions, e!ective reliability improvements of electricity supply is dealt with through encouragement of local energy generation, local energy storage, and a retained connection to the regional grid known as distributed energy resources.
Hydro’s further claim, that the sale of surplus hydroelectric energy to Minnesota Power will help keep electricity rates lower to Manitobans, ignores the economic realities for ratepayers. Rates are increasing due to the massive investments made with the Keeyask Dam (not needed for Manitoba load), the Bipole III transmission line, Wuskwatim Dam (built for export), and this MMTP line. And, a half a billion was lost in the Conawapa Dam adventure.
These “investments” were to generate profitable exports. But, export prices have collapsed and construction costs soared and Hydro rates will continue to rise above the cost of living increases. Export revenues will bring a fraction of the cost of producing the power.
And, while Hydro might have built the MMTP line in Manitoba within its $490 million budget, Hydro’s Energy Matters fails to mention that the utility will end up paying for the construction of the Great Northern Transmission line (GNTL) in Minnesota as well — its forecast cost $US712 million. Through 6690271 Manitoba Ltd., fully owned by Hydro, it is to pay 100% of the cost of the GNTL.
So, while Hydro will not own GNTL, it will have paid for it. In Canadian dollars. The total cost of MMTP and GNTL together is forecast at $1.2 billion, 2.5 times the $490 million quoted in Energy Matters.
To better protect consumers, discussion on Manitoba Hydro’s future should begin with the objective of gaining a public understanding of how the actions of the governments, boards, and executive teams of the last 20 years has changed a low-cost high-value straight-talking crown corporation into one now buried in debt, subsidizing American industries and consumers, utilizing questionable accounting, and serving up hundreds of millions of ratepayers’ money a year to prop up the government’s finances.
When this is done, the most logical prescription will call for splitting Manitoba Hydro. One crown corporation for transmission comprising the regional grid — allowing open access to all (to buy from or sell into with a usage fee so that it becomes an independent market). Neighbour would trade with neighbour or with an independent generator (a First Nation, a farmer, a Hydro generator).
The second crown corporation would be for Manitoba Hydro’s generation, which would compete with other generators and would be connected to the regional grid market or outside-of-province generators through contracts or spot markets.
Our electricity use would become competitive and reliable, not at the mercy of an uncompetitive energy dictator. Manitoba’s electricity users would have a say in the energy of the future, democratizing electric energy supply is the future.
Grraham Lane, a past Chairman of the Public Utilities Board, is a retired CPA CA.