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'Golden opportunity' for Hydro

Manitoba Hydro wants to begin construction on its Keeyask generating station this summer.

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Manitoba Hydro wants to begin construction on its Keeyask generating station this summer.

A U.S. plan to cut carbon dioxide emissions at power plants by as much as 30 per cent could be a boon to Manitoba Hydro, the province says.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said Monday existing power plants are the largest source of the U.S.'s greenhouse gas emissions at 38 per cent, with much of it coming from aging, coal-fired power plants.

The minister responsible for Manitoba Hydro said the EPA proposal is "a golden opportunity" for Hydro, which already has a number of firm power-export contracts with utilities in Minnesota and Wisconsin.

"We intend to make the most of this for Manitobans," Stan Struthers said Monday, adding states such as Minnesota are already positioning themselves to burn less coal.

Minnesota Power, for example, is to buy 250 megawatts of hydro power from Hydro beginning in 2020 and will achieve an energy mix of one-third renewable from hydro and wind, one-third from natural gas and one-third from coal by 2025, more than a decade earlier than state law requires.

"We want to work with them to achieve this opportunity," Struthers said. "I think we can translate that into some long-term gain as well."

Hydro wants to begin construction on its newest generating station, Keeyask, this summer and build a new transmission line into Minnesota by 2020. A decision on the next dam, Conawapa, isn't needed for four years.

The EPA wants each state to design its own plan to meet emission targets for power plants, which could include plant upgrades, switching from coal to natural gas, more energy efficiency and using more renewable energy such as wind, solar and hydro.

It's predicted the EPA push will see several older coal plants in the U.S. Midwest close, opening the door for Hydro to export more power.

Reports say the proposed plan, called the main piece of U.S. President Barack Obama's climate-change agenda before he leaves office in 2017, will likely face political and legal challenges in the coming months before it's to come into force next year.

bruce.owen@freepress.mb.ca

How confident are you that Barack Obama's coal crackdown will reduce greenhouse gases both in the United States and here in Canada? Join the conversation in the comments below.

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