More red ink at Manitoba Hydro as need for new power generation looms

WINNIPEG - Manitoba's NDP administration has declared its intention to formulate a strategy for financing new energy ventures, following a decision to halt the development of additional private-sector wind farms. This plan will accompany efforts to stabilize hydroelectric rates and manage the financial obligations of the province's state-operated energy company.

Finance Minister Adrien Sala, overseeing Manitoba Hydro, shared these insights during a legislative committee meeting on Thursday, emphasizing the government's desire for future energy expansions to remain under public ownership and expressing trust in Manitoba Hydro's governance to realize these goals.

This announcement was concurrent with Manitoba Hydro unveiling increased financial losses in its latest quarterly report. The utility anticipates a $190-million deficit for the fiscal year ending in March, marking a $29 million increase from its previous forecast and a significant deviation from an initial $450 million profit expectation announced last spring. Contributing factors to this financial downturn include reduced hydroelectric power generation due to drought conditions, diminished export revenues, and a mild fall season impacting heating demand.

The recent financial update aligns with a period of significant changes at Manitoba Hydro, initiated by the NDP government's board overhaul following its victory over the former Progressive Conservative administration in the October 3 election.

Subsequently, the NDP-aligned board discharged CEO Jay Grewal, who had advocated for integrating wind energy from third-party sources to promptly address the province's escalating energy requirements. Grewal's approach, though not unprecedented, sought to offer a quicker, more cost-efficient alternative to constructing new Manitoba Hydro dams, highlighting an imminent energy production shortfall projected for as early as 2029.

The opposition Progressive Conservatives have criticized the NDP for dismissing the wind power initiative without presenting an alternate solution, emphasizing the urgency of addressing the predicted energy gap.

In response, Sala reassured that the government is in the early stages of policy formulation and criticized the previous administration for its inaction on enhancing generation capacity during its tenure.

Manitoba Hydro has named Hal Turner as the acting CEO while it searches for Grewal's successor. Turner informed the committee that the utility is still deliberating on its approach to new energy production and is exploring ways to curb rising demand.

Expressing optimism about collaborating with the new board, Turner is confident in finding a viable strategy to fulfill Manitoba's energy needs in a safe and affordable manner.

Additionally, the NDP's campaign pledge to freeze consumer rates for a year remains a priority, with Sala committing to implement this freeze before the next provincial election slated for 2027.


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