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Hydro kicks off aggressive three-year energy efficiency programs

Smiling young people, politicians in suits and a parade float featuring puppies and dinosaurs helped kick off Manitoba Hydro’s aggressive new three-year energy efficiency program today aimed at saving ratepayers $157 million in 2017.

Hydro said that the saving the renewed Power Smart plan will be achieved through a number of new and expanded programs to be announced in the coming weeks and months.

The programs will target residential, business and commercial customers as Hydro aims to save 411 megawatts (MW) of electricity—the equivalent of twice the capacity of the new Wuskwatim generating station near Thompson. The Crown corporation's new Power Smart plan also doubles the targeted electric energy savings to be achieved over the next three years, a plan even Hydro admits is aggressive.

Over the three-year period Hydro also wants to start building the new Keeyask generating station and a new transmission line to Duluth, Minn. By saving more electricity, more power will be made available to sell to the Americans, who are dealing with stricter federal emission rules for coal plants.

At the kick-off in Winnipeg’s North End, Hydro said it is launching a street-by-street blitz to tell low-income homeowners and landlords about the various low-cost programs Hydro offers to insulate older homes, such as under the Affordable Energy Program. The blitz is needed because the uptake to date under the program has been slow. It offers participants a free home energy audit, free insulation upgrades, pipe wrapping, low-flow showerhead, faucet aerators, energy efficient lighting, as well as free weatherstripping and caulking.

"Our government is committed to helping Manitoba families and businesses invest in energy efficiency to keep their hydro and gas bills among the lowest in North America," said Stan Struthers, minister responsible for Manitoba Hydro.

The new plan also aims to reduce natural gas use by about 32 million cubic metres over the same period and 133 million cubic metres combined with past efforts -- equivalent to twice the natural gas needs of Brandon.

Over the next three years, including other program support and contingency costs, Hydro will spend $188 million in electric Power Smart incentive-based programs with an expected cumulative utility investment of $649 million by 2016-17. On the natural gas side of Hydro's operations, it plans to spend $47 million with an expected cumulative utility investment of $171 million by 2016-17.

On the same day at the legislature, Progressive Conservative Hydro Critic Ralph Eichler introduced a motion asking the NDP government to slow down on its dam and transmission development plan.

Eichler said the NDP has already spent over $2.6 billion on Hydro projects that have yet to be approved by regulatory boards and its intent to seek Hydro rate increases of almost four per cent over the next 20 years.

Struthers replied that even with the increases electricity rates in Manitoba will remain among the lowest in Canada

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