U.S. bill favours Hydro’s power

Wisconsin could buy Wuskwatim's output

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A new law in Wisconsin will designate large hydroelectric dams, including those in Manitoba, as a renewable energy source to help American power utilities meet the state's green-power mandate.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 07/05/2011 (4162 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

A new law in Wisconsin will designate large hydroelectric dams, including those in Manitoba, as a renewable energy source to help American power utilities meet the state’s green-power mandate.

The bill, expected to be passed in June, would make Manitoba Hydro’s new Wuskwatim dam the first in the province eligible for a “renewable resource” designation and opens the door for the Crown corporation to sell even more surplus power to Wisconsin.

The bill’s co-sponsor, Sen. Frank Lasee, said Wisconsin’s green-energy mandate provides that by 2015, 10 per cent of all power sold by state utilities must come from a renewable source, increasing to 15 per cent.

SUBMITTED PHOTO Electricity from Manitoba Hydro's Wuskwatim generating station would be a 'renewable resource' under a Wisconsin bill, making it eligible to export power to the state.

“There’s language in the bill that pretty well identifies it as the power coming from Manitoba,” Lasee said Friday. “This would allow small utilities to purchase power from Manitoba and have that apply towards their green-energy requirement, and it’s at a lower cost than wind energy and that’s one of the attractive features of it.”

Lasee’s bill also stipulates that power purchased from Manitoba Hydro can only be counted towards state compliance if Manitoba informs the Wisconsin Public Service Commission that final licences have replaced interim licenses for two hydroelectric generating stations in northern Manitoba, and that those final licences meet Canadian law.

“I believe we have good, broad support in the legislature to pass it,” Lasse said of his bill.

Finance Minister Rosann Wowchuk said Friday the interim licence includes dams under the Lake Winnipeg regulation project, a licence that has been in place since the mid-1970s and is up for renewal this year. Wuskwatim, which is to start generating power this fall, and the Keeyask station, a project still under development, will also meet Wisconsin’s requirements.

“There has been an awful lot of work trying to get Hydro, our power, recognized as a renewable energy,” Wowchuk said. “With this bill, it means we will be able to see more power there because this is a state that wants more renewable energy in their portfolio.”

But the Wisconsin bill does not have the support of the state’s solar companies and environmental groups, who say it will reduce expansion of renewable-energy sources, which create jobs in the state.

Reports say critics of the bill also object to the state importing power from Canada on high-voltage transmission lines, and that by buying power from Manitoba, investment is leaving the state.

However, state officials say Manitoba Hydro has the best price to meet Wisconsin’s increasing power demands.

“At some point, we’re going to be needing more renewable power,” Charlie Severance, of Wisconsin Public Service Corp., said in a recent media report. “It’s as important in terms of job preservation or creation to have an attractive electric rate as it is to do things that create jobs within the state.”

Manitoba’s power-export deal with Wisconsin, first announced in 2008, is worth $2 billion to the province. Manitoba Hydro is working on a similar export deal with Minnesota that is worth almost $3 billion to the province.

bruce.owen@freepress.mb.ca

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