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Premier claims pact justifies need for $10 billion dam

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Premier Greg Selinger says a new major power deal between Manitoba Hydro and a U.S. utility announced last week will provide the justification needed to build the proposed Conawapa dam.

Premier Greg Selinger says a new major power deal between Manitoba Hydro and a U.S. utility announced last week will provide the justification needed to build the proposed Conawapa dam.

Selinger said it will confirm the interests in export markets for buying Manitoba Hydro.

Conawapa, if it passes all regulatory and environmental hoops, will be the largest generating station built in the province after Limestone, which began operations in 1990.

Conawapa is located about 850 kilometres north of Winnipeg, 30 kilometres downstream from the Limestone generating station, and about 80 kilometres from Hudson Bay.

The most recent estimate of Conawapa’s construction cost is $10 billion.

Construction will take more than eight years and under current plans, Conawapa would start producing electricity in 2025.

“Building it for export pays down the cost of the dam through the export revenues which keeps the rates low for Manitobans,” the premier said.

Previous deals between Hydro and utilities in Minnesota and Wisconsin necessitated the construction of the smaller $6.2-billion Keeyask generating station, also on the lower Nelson River.

Minnesota and Wisconsin utilities have signed term sheet, power sale, seasonal diversity and energy exchange agreements for more than $5.5 billion in hydro-electricity exports to Northern States Power of Minneapolis and Wisconsin Public Service.

U.S. utilities, particularly in Minnesota, are looking to buy electricity from Manitoba because of state legislation that over the next decade requires up to 25 per cent of the power they distribute come from renewable sources, including wind and solar.

“The advantage of our clean, renewable power, it’s very competitive in terms of price so it’s profitable for Manitoba Hydro, and the people buying it know that it’s one of the better deals compared to the other sources of alternative sources of energy that they’re considering,” Selinger said.

Both Keeyask and Conawapa are to be studied by a special sitting of the Public Utilities Board starting earlier this week.

The utilities board will examine whether the two dams, and a transmission line to run from Winnipeg to Minnesota, make economic sense.

Selinger said the timing of the Public Utilities Board hearing and word of the Conawapa deal is coincidence.

“It’s because the sale was concluded,” Selinger said. “We announce these things as they get concluded.”

News from © Canadian Press Enterprises Inc., 2014

by Journal Of Commerce

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