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Reality Check

RC-26: How Many Hydro Projects Are Planned?

Date Posted: November 20, 2011

Manitoba Hydro is planning roughly to spend $20 billion for new hydro resource projects. The Manitoba government is proceeding with this expansion without an energy plan for the province. Several Manitoba Hydro projects require licensing under the Water Power Act and/or the Environment Act. Some generation projects are operational through 35 years of interim licences and now require final licences. One project requires renewal of an existing final license; another upgrades an existing generation facility and needs new environmental licensing.

The Churchill River Diversion (CRD), which includes several dams, only has interim hydro power licences, and no environmental licences. The CRD also requires public review so final licences can be put in place. The CRD process has been ongoing for 2 years, held behind closed doors.

Manitoba Hydro is also planning to build two new hydro power generation stations, and at least two new transmission systems.

  1. Lake Winnipeg Regulation (LWR) — A 1970 interim license and a 1972 supplementary interim licence under the Water Power Act allowed construction of Jenpeg dam and regulation of Lake Winnipeg water levels to serve as a reservoir for generation stations on the Nelson River. Jenpeg began operation in 1976 and has operated with an interim license since. In December 2010 Manitoba Hydro applied for a final license under Manitoba's Water Power Act. In July 2011 the Manitoba government announced the Clean Environment Commission (CEC) would hold public hearings about regulation of Lake Winnipeg. The hearing process is in a preliminary stage, with schedule unknown. Funding will be provided for participants.
  2. Churchill River Diversion (CRD) — In 1972 an interim Water Power Act licence to connect the Nelson and Churchill Rivers via the Burntwood River system in order to store and supply water for hydroelectric generation was issued. The CRD became operational in 1977 and has continued under an interim license since. Each generation station in the CRD also holds an interim licence. Manitoba Hydro applied to Manitoba Water Stewardship for a final 50 year license for the CRD May 2009. The June 2009 response from Water Stewardship indicated a consultation process was "expected to begin in the fall", but to date no public open houses have been held, and little public information regarding licenses for the CRD is available. There is also no information as to what happens when the final licences expire.
  3. Grand Rapids Generating Station — The first interim Water Power Act license to construct three turbines on the Saskatchewan River at Grand Rapids was issued in 1965. A supplementary interim licence to construct a fourth turbine was issued in 1968. The Grand Rapids generating station was issued a final license in 1975, with a January 2, 2015 expiry date. Manitoba Hydro made a request to Manitoba Stewardship to renew the final licence for another fifty years December 17, 2010. It is unclear what further steps have been made in regards to this second final license renewal and if public hearing will be held.
  4. Pointe Du Bois Modernization Project — Manitoba's oldest operational hydro generation station, first built in 1911, is being upgraded and modernized. This upgrade project is split into several smaller projects and licences. (Pointe Du Bois Modernization, Pointe Du Bois Electrical Transmission Upgrades, Slave Fall Tramway), requiring several Environment Act licences, and possible amendments to the current Water Power Act licence.
  5. Pine Falls, Seven Sisters, and MacArthur Falls Generating Stations — Three of Manitoba's older Winnipeg River hydro generation stations, built between 1932 and 1955, operate on short-term extended water power licences which expire in 2015. So final licences, or interim license extensions, will be required.
  6. Keeyask Generating Station — Manitoba hydro plans to build the $5.6 billion, 695 megawatt hydro generation station at Gull Rapids (725 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg) on the lower Nelson River. A joint development partnership agreement was signed with nearby First Nations in 2009, and the preliminary site work was licensed. An Environmental Assessment Proposal Form (EAPF) was submitted to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (CEAA) August 31, 2011. Keeyask is being built to meet Manitoba Hydro energy export obligations. The targeted in-service date is 2019-21; construction is expected to last 7-8 years. According to the Manitoba Hydro website: “Public hearings are expected.” Given the time frame, a formal licence request under the Environment Act, is expected soon. There is no public schedule regarding the Environment Act, CEC, and Water Power Act proceedings for this project. This project will require additional transmission.
  7. Conawapa Generating Station — Manitoba Hydro plans to build the $7.7 billion, 1485 megawatt, Conawapa Generating Station on the lower Nelson River about 90 kilometres downstream from Gillam. There are no development, design or construction decisions yet, but the station may be required to meet existing Manitoba Hydro long-term energy export obligations. The provincial government and Manitoba Hydro entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with Fox Lake First Nation related to the Conawapa project. The earliest possible in-service date is 2023. Construction would take 8 to 8.5 years after all regulatory approvals and licences are in place. If constructed Conawapa would be largest hydro generation facility in Manitoba. It remains unclear if, when, and how the licensing process will proceed. This project will require additional transmission.
  8. Bipole III Transmission Project — The Bipole III corridor will be separate from Bipole I & II, which run parallel to each other in the same corridor, and is being built to enhance energy reliability, and security. Manitoba Hydro submitted a Draft Environmental Assessment Scoping Document (EASD) to Manitoba Conservation, Environmental Assessment and Licensing Branch (EALB), December 14, 2009. Following public review the EASD was finalized in June 2010. An Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) was originally expected June 2011, has been delayed, and is expected to be submitted for public review by the end of 2011. Conflicting information means it is not clear whether public hearings will be held for the Bi Pole III transmission project.
  9. New Transmission to the U.S. — Would need to be constructed to meet upcoming US export obligations, by 2019-20. The estimated cost for the project is $200 million. It is unclear if and when a licence will be sought, or the anticipated dates for construction.

“This number of projects and licenses, all needing public review and the best possible effects assessment, creates many questions. Which of these projects will have public hearings? Can the crown utility, and governmental licensing authorities handle the increased volume of license requests? These reviews, extension of licences, and new projects underscore the need for a Manitoba energy plan to ensure energy developments proceed in an orderly fashion, with strong environmental and economic reviews, for the public benefit,” said Manitoba Wildlands Director, Gaile Whelan Enns.

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