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Wisconsin recognizes Manitoba Hydro power as a renewable source

The Wisconsin legislature voted Wednesday to recognize new Manitoba Hydro power as a renewable source, Finance Minister Rosann Wowchuk said in a statement today.

The passing of Assembly Bill 146 requires Manitoba Hydro to follow strict environmental conditions to not only maintain the designation, but to export power to Wisconsin. The only Hydro dam that qualifies for the designation is the new $1.3 billion Wuskwatim generating project on the Burntwood River about 45 kilometres southwest of Thompson. It’s scheduled to switch on early next year.

“With Wisconsin taking this step, it shows they too see our hydro as the clean, green, premium product that it is,” said Wowchuk, the minister responsible for Manitoba Hydro. “This move also shows that our southern neighbours value our modern and responsible approach to protecting the environment and partnering with First Nations on hydro development.”

Under Assembly Bill 146 and Wisconsin’s renewable portfolio standard, 10 per cent of electricity must come from renewable sources by 2015.

The Bill was not without opposition. Critics said it was another blow to the state’s struggling wind power industry.

The Selinger government recently announced a combined power sale to Wisconsin and Minnesota worth about $4 billion. The deal means the construction of the Keeyask generating station on the lower Nelson River.

To move that new power south, Manitoba Hydro is building the new Bipole III transmission line on the west side of the province. The NDP ordered Hydro to take that route, instead of a preferred cheaper and shorter route down the east side of the province, to restrict development in the boreal forest and promote the designation of the area as an UNESCO World Heritage site, currently being pursued by several First Nations.

The Opposition Progressive Conservatives say if they take office in the Oct. 4 province election they’ll cancel the longer west-side route.

Also this week, Manitoba Hydro tabled a revised integrated financial forecast for the Bipole III line with the Public Utilities Board (Exhibit 154 (Pdf).

It says because the projected cost of Bipole III has increased from a previous estimate of $2.248 billion to $3.280 billion, that long-term debt will increase by $1.8 billion by year 2029-30 as a result of increased borrowing requirements and related financing costs.

It also says starting in 2017-18 (the projected in-service date for Bipole III) net income is projected to be lower than the previous forecast but remains positive throughout the forecast period.