The Manitoba government and the head of Manitoba Hydro, the province’s Crown energy corporation, are at odds over how to meet growing demand for electricity, and the minister responsible won’t say whether he has full confidence in the president and CEO of the corporation, Jay Grewal. .
The rift began earlier this week, when Grewal told the Manitoba Chambers of Commerce that the province could need new power generation as early as 2029 and would also look at ways to encourage people to curb consumption.
The corporation plans to reach out to independent producers of wind power and other sources and is considering ways to reduce peak-hour demand, such as charging consumers different rates at different times of the day, Grewal said.
The NDP government has since made clear it opposes both ideas.
“When it comes to developing new energy resources, we want them to be publicly generated,” Adrien Sala, finance minister and minister responsible for Manitoba Hydro, said Friday.
The government is also not interested in exploring “price increases or demand response options,” Sala said.
Sala did not respond directly when asked if he has full confidence in Grewal and if she will continue in her position. She would only talk about the board of directors.
“We have full confidence in our board and our new president to ensure that we move forward in meeting our energy needs as a province in a good way that ensures, again, reliability, affordability and that those energy resources are publicly owned.” he said.
Opposition Progressive Conservatives said Grewal outlined a clear plan to address energy needs at a time when the utility is deeply in debt.
“She knew that her job could ultimately be at stake here. But she decided to make those comments publicly anyway because, regardless of political party or ideology, she believes that is the right path to take this Crown corporation. to the future”. said Grant Jackson, a conservative hydropower critic.
The NDP has not always opposed private power generation. Under the previous NDP government more than a decade ago, Manitoba Hydro signed agreements for wind farms at two locations in southern Manitoba involving private companies. They continue to generate power for the province, as does a solar energy farm established by the Fisher River Cree Nation.
Manitoba Hydro is still dealing with the financial effects of its last big construction push. Its debt tripled in 15 years as it built two megaprojects: the Bipole III transmission line and the Keeyask generating station. The projects together went over budget by $3.7 billion.
Grewal, who was appointed by the previous Conservative government in 2019, was not available for an interview on Friday. He said earlier this week the time and cost of building another generating station is part of the reason Manitoba Hydro plans to look for independent producers.
The NDP government campaigned to keep all aspects of Manitoba Hydro public en route to victory in October’s provincial election. Shortly after, he replaced most of the board members.
Sala said it’s too early to say what kind of new generation options the province might consider, such as building its own wind farm.
Sala has also promised to freeze electricity rates for consumers for a year. He did not set a timetable Friday or say whether it would be done before the next election, scheduled for 2027.
“We’ll talk more about this later as we see how things progress at Hydro.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 2, 2024.