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Manitoba government prepares legislation for energy efficiency agency this fall

Initial results from the Hydro board’s review of Bipole III and other projects, such as the Keeyask generating station, will be publicized in the next several weeks.

Manitoba Hydro's corporate headquarters in downtown Winnipeg


Manitoba Hydro's corporate headquarters in downtown Winnipeg

The province could table new legislation as early as this fall to transfer Manitoba Hydro’s energy efficiency programs to a new agency.

The Crown Corporation’s CEO and President, Kelvin Shepherd, outlined Manitoba's plans in a memo sent to staff on Tuesday.

Creating an arms-length agency to facilitate energy saving programming was a promise premier Brian Pallister made while campaigning for the province’s top job earlier this year.

Essentially, the new agency or structure would assume responsibility over demand side management—which Hydro public affiairs manager Scott Powell defined as any initiative or program that reduces the consumption of electricity.

“It could include Power Smart programs,” he said Tuesday.

“It’s really too early to say until we know more of what the structure of the agency is going to be and what exactly the legislation will look like. Anything else is speculation.

“All we know is … they’re looking at developing legislation to create a separate entity of some sort.”

In an email statement Metro, a government spokesperson cited a 2014 recommendation by the Public Utilities Board for the province to create an independent agency that would develop and oversee energy savings targets, instead of Manitoba Hydro.

“Our government is currently working towards our commitment to establish an independent energy efficiency authority that will facilitate the management of an effective energy savings program, while protecting the environment for generations to come,” the email read.

Powell said it’s too early to say how Hydro’s role would change and whether a reduction in staffing would take place.

Powell expected Hydro would be involved in discussions around the development of the new agency.  

Shepherd also outlined a grim picture of the public utility provider’s financial standings.

He expressed a need to change to the crown corporation’s business operations and push for more cost reductions – beyond current vacancy management measures.

“While there are many positive aspects to our business, I am concerned about our financial position because we are essentially doubling our debt load over the next few years,” he wrote.

“Under our current plan, we need nearly everything to go right for quite a number of years before we would recover to a stronger, more acceptable financial position.”

The memo adds the crown corporation’s board is planning to release the initial results of the review of the Bipole III project, which is a $4.6 million transmission line from the western to the eastern side of the province, currently under construction.

It adds the review also expanded to include other capital projects, such as the Keeyask project – a hydroelectric generating station the province is working on with four Manitoba First Nations. 

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