In his May 6 column, Will Yanks pay for NDP mistake?, Garland Laliberte gives the false impression that Manitoba Hydro faces no risks and no challenges when it comes to marketing and selling our power as a clean premium product in international export markets. Nothing could be further from the truth. Loss of exports harms our Manitoba customers, and we have a responsibility to be cautious to protect them.
Despite the fact that 97 per cent of Manitoba Hydro’s power is generated from carbon-free, self-renewing water power, there are currently no U.S. markets that qualify our hydro power as a renewable resource. This places Manitoba Hydro’s electricity at a disadvantage compared to other renewable energy sources, because it results in our electricity not counting toward renewable energy requirements U.S. utilities must meet by law.
The story doesn’t end there. Environmental organizations, which have derailed other resource projects in the past, as well as tens of thousands of individuals, have expressed strong environmentally based opposition to an east-side line. There have been several recent attempts by opponents of Manitoba Hydro in the U.S. to pass special laws that would impose unique environmental and socio-economic requirements on our sales to U.S. customers.
These efforts have aimed to devalue our product and tarnish our image. Manitoba Hydro continues to work diligently, along with our First Nations partners, to build up our reputation as a clean energy provider.
Manitoba Hydro recognizes that there have been significant impacts to the environment and to aboriginal communities as a result of past hydro development. That’s why we have paid out more than $700 million in compensation to impacted communities. And that’s why we are committed to a modern approach to hydro development today—one that is more respectful of the environment and more inclusive of aboriginal people as partners.
Routing Bipole III along the west side of the province, instead of through the intact boreal forest on the east side, is a modern and responsible approach to development today. Another is Manitoba Hydro’s ground-breaking partnership with Nisichawaysihk Cree First Nation on the Wuskwatim dam. It will start producing power later this year on the basis of a substantially re-engineered design, which reduced flooding to less than 0.5 square kilometres, down from 40, even though that meant a more than 100-megawatt reduction in electricity capacity
Wisconsin, one of our most important and growing export markets, is presently considering a bill that would qualify power from our new dams, starting with Wuskwatim, as a renewable resource. We see this as a very positive development.
Contrary to the suggestions of some, now is not the time to risk our progress by reverting to old-school models of development. We need to move forward with responsible development, including Bipole III on the west side.
VIC H. Schroeder
Manitoba Hydro-Electric board
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 18, 2011 A11