Green Action Centre intervened in Manitoba Hydro’s “Need for and Alternatives To” (NFAT) hearing before the Public Utilities Board (PUB). We were able to engage three energy experts to analyze Hydro’s filings and make recommendations. Their work is described here. The hearing is over and Green Action Centre awaits the PUB’s report due June 20, 2014. On May 20th, 2014, we made our final submission.
Manitoba Hydro’s preferred development plan was to build two new northern dams, 695 MW Keeyask and 1485 MW Conawapa; an additional 750 MW transmission line or “intertie” connecting Manitoba, Minnesota and Wisconsin; and new export contracts, which (a) enable the transmission line to be built in the U.S. and (b) help pay for the new dams until Manitobans need all the power.
However from the outset Manitoba Hydro separated the first phase for immediate decision – building Keeyask and the intertie to supply new export contracts – from the decision to build Conawapa.
After reviewing mountains of evidence and 48 days of oral hearing, Green Action Centre concludes that the first phase of the plan is justified. Particularly valuable is the new U.S. transmission line, which will:
- improve reliability and export markets for Hydro’s system,
- bring long-term benefits to Manitoba and its taxpayers and ratepayers,
- increase support for wind and solar renewables in the US, and
- displace coal and gas in the US to mitigate climate change.
All interveners and Manitoba Hydro itself agreed that conditions are not right for Conawapa at this time.
Green Action Centre made further recommendations as well:
- Manitoba Hydro should pursue its proposed level 2 Demand Side Management, but augmented to achieve a flat load as found in other leading jurisdictions.
- Ancillary to an aggressive and enduring Demand Side Management commitment, Manitoba Hydro should pursue enabling and supportive policies, including conservation rates, programs encouraging the selection of alternative fuels over electric heat, and mechanisms for facilitating customer-owned generation and energy substitution using waste heat and industrial and agricultural byproducts.
- Because rates will rise faster than inflation under all plans, vulnerable persons with a high energy burden require bill mitigation through targeted retrofit and efficiency programs, special rate design and, in some cases, discounted bills.
- There is a strong case against new natural gas generation, especially for baseload. Our prime export market, Minnesota, has legislated against new base power supply from fossil fueled generation. Manitoba may lose export customers (or pricing advantages) if it surrenders its clean energy brand and adopts gas generation for new supply. These economic considerations only strengthen Manitoba’s commitments to clean energy.
- It is important to distinguish natural gas for heating in Manitoba and natural gas used to generate electric power, whether in Manitoba or elsewhere. Because of the difference in their efficiencies, (>90% for a gas furnace vs 20-50% for gas turbine or coal power generation), heating with electricity in Manitoba causes 2 to 3 times the GHGs to be produced in the US from replacement coal and gas generation than heating with a high-efficiency gas furnace. From a climate change perspective, Manitobans seeking “fossil fuel freedom” should convert to wood pellet stoves or high-efficiency geothermal rather than electric heat. In addition, Manitoba Hydro could offer a “renewable natural gas” premium option for gas customers who wish to green their heating using methane from landfills and elsewhere, such as FortisBC offers.
- Options for future resource plans should be developed through an integrated resource planning process with opportunities for public and expert outsiders to propose and comment on resource alternatives. BC Hydro provides a recent example. The range of resources to be considered would include conservation alternatives including “demand response,” which can lower peak demand at critical times; alternative renewables like wind and solar; customer generation, including combined heat and power; and strategic transmission and grid improvements that enable integration of distributed generation sources.
- Finally, Green Action Centre recommends that Manitoba Hydro do more to involve stakeholders in strategic planning processes, including new directions for Power Smart, rate design, addressing the needs of vulnerable customers, and optimizing natural gas policies to mitigate climate change. The closed planning circle between the Provincial Government and Manitoba Hydro needs to be opened up, both to insure that all the options are given due weight and to improve public trust.
As always, GAC’s considered participation and reporting clarifies the complicated issues in an informed manner for lay persons like me. Thank you for all the work you do.
Another source of electricity that I feel should be considered is nuclear. The Ottawa-based company, Terrestrial Energy Inc. is in the process of building a 4th gen molten salt one in the tar sands (perhaps not an ideal use). http://www.terrestrialenergyinc.com, details on the project http://nextbigfuture.com/2014/04/terrestrial-energy-successfully-closed.html They claim it could be ready commercially in less than 10 years. Also, http://dotearth.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/11/03/to-those-influencing-environmental-policy-but-opposed-to-nuclear-power/
Thanks for your comment. Although there are a lot of nuclear supporters out there, Green Action Centre believes there are more viable options to consider first, such as energy conservation, solar and wind power. Although it might be true that energy derived from nuclear reactors does not release GHGs, there are a lot associated with the mining, transporting and building of nuclear reactors. Also, until the pesky little problem of nuclear waste is resolved, we feel that nuclear is pretty detrimental to the environment and human health. There are some good arguments here. No energy solution is without impact, but we can be mindful and thoughtful of our usage and where we decide to invest our money to expand and research cleaner technologies.
Thanks for your reply, Amanda, as for nuclear waste, here’s an innovation I believe should be invested in http://transatomicpower.com/products.php. All technologies have their pros and cons, when you consider “cradle to grave” http://shrinkthatfootprint.com/why-the-world-needs-low-carbon-electricity Also, when examining the state of energy generation and usage for USA for 2013, how long before wind and solar will increase by, say, 10 fold and will that be enough to sufficiently reduce CO2 emissions? https://www.llnl.gov/news/newsreleases/2014/Apr/NR-14-04-01.html Also, I find it rather perplexing when environmentalists hold up Germany as an example for green energy http://www.realclearenergy.org/charticles/2014/01/16/germanys_plans_for_new_coal_plants_107463.html Interesting that Ontario brought in Al Gore a few months ago to publicize they are getting rid of coal (great) and increasing wind and solar, but here is the real data of energy generation in Ontario and why their electricity is low CO2 emission http://live.gridwatch.ca/home-page.html. We need all zero or near-zero CO2 emission energy sources to remain on the table, in my opinion.
Waste disposal is still big challenge for the nuclear industry after 60 years or so of thinking about it. The interim protocol of keeping spent fuel in holding tanks requires the continuous, unremitting pumping of cooling water – or – risk a very high emitting boil off. There are hundreds of reactor sites around the world; are current societies so stable as to permit such ongoing maintenance for a couple of hundred years or so?
The economics of nuclear generation looked great in the 70s – not so much anymore with the actual costs rising quickly.
Like fuel for instance: http://www.lowtechmagazine.com/2007/08/nuclear-react-1.html
Thank you for the answer Peter 🙂
I am happy to hear the reason is the conventional expectation that storage, and such a vast storage system created by Manitba Hydro decades ago, enables intermittent sources like sun and wind. Is wind and solar production within Manitoba similarly welcomed into Lake Winnipeg?
how does that work that the new transmissioin line increases support for wind and solar renewables in the US?
Thanks for the question Peter.
MISO, the organization that operates the transmission system in the Midwest US, commissioned a study that showed there was economic value to have a larger interconnection for Manitoba Hydro to back wind. (See “Manitoba Hydro Wind Synergy Study” at https://www.misoenergy.org/Planning/TransmissionExpansionPlanning/Pages/MTEPStudies.aspx.) This study was used to support the building of the new 750 MW intertie to Duluth in cooperation with Minnesota Power (MP). In addition, Hydro’s contract with MP contains a provision for Hydro to store wind energy from the company’s wind farms in North Dakota when it is surplus and later dispatch it as needed. Manitoba Hydro can do this by turning down its generation and storing water when North Dakota wind can supply the grid and then turning up the generation when the wind can’t meet demand. This requires a combination of enhanced transmission from North Dakota to energy consumers to the east and enhanced transmission from Manitoba to fill in the supply needs when the wind isn’t blowing. Because wind and solar are intermittent, they require batteries or some other source to fill in the gaps. Lake Winnipeg can serve that need IF there is sufficient transmission capacity to the U.S.