August 16, 2013 9:18 pm
Updated: August 17, 2013 10:49 am

Hydro answers critics of massive spending plan

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WINNIPEG – Manitoba Hydro filed a crucial document to the Public Utilities Board on Friday afternoon.

The Crown corporation is looking for approval to forge ahead with its $20 billion project which includes building two new hydro generating stations, Keeyask and Conawapa.

According to hydro, if the province did not move forward with new electricity plans, Manitoba would be running short of energy by 2023.

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“We are going to need something for the Manitoba load and advancing just a few years has lots of benefits and that’s why we are looking at Keeyask now,” said Ed Wojczynski, Division Manager for Manitoba Hydro.

The document outlines a number of possible plans and hydro’s preferred plan, which entails the two new dams, has the largest capital costs and rate increases for the next few years.

“But in the long term they’ll cross over and the preferred plan will have much lower rate increases then the others,” said Wojczynski.

A former PUB board chair has been critical of the plan in the past.

Graham Lane blew the whistle on hydro’s spending last year and has said he’s worried the province could end up bankrupt if hydro continues its “reckless spending.”

Other critics have also come forward, including the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.

“Hydro is counting on rate increases of 3.5-per cent for years,” said Colin Craig. “But Manitobans’ incomes aren’t going up that fast right now, so I don’t know that they have really thought about Manitobans’ ability to pay for this.”

The Premier is standing behind the Crown corporation’s decisions.

“Building now is the right thing to do,” said Premier Greg Selinger. “We want to build Manitoba Hydro to ensure we have power for our growing economy and to ensure we can continue to provide exports, which generates billions of dollars of revenue to keep Manitoba rates low.”

The generating stations provide the biggest payoffs if the export market remains favorable. However, if that changes, Hydro said it could mitigate the costs by building a natural gas plant instead of Conawapa, which isn’t scheduled to be in service until 2026.

Hydro said it’s imperative to move forward with construction on the Keeyask station next June.

Public hearings will start in February 2014 and are expected to last nearly two and a half months.

The PUB will not make its recommendation until after.

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