Why does this province promote hydro-electric energy at the expense of wind energy?
We wait on the sidelines to see if Australian mega-firm Babcock and Brown can pony up the $800 million to make the long awaited 300 megawatt (MW) wind farm in St. Joseph a reality, but we have no problem with our Crown Corporation taking on $18 billion dollars in debt on our behalf in addition to its nearly $7 billion of the province's $18 billion debt.
Yet, wind is cheaper than hydro! Wuskatim (generating capacity 200MW) is estimated to cost the government $1.6 billion. At $800 million for 300 MW, the St. Joseph wind farm will have more generating capacity for less capital investment.
Though hydro typically operates closer to peak generating capacity, it is not without its own costs. For instance, there are the costs of transporting the electricity to market. But more importantly, there are the ecological costs: undrinkable water, shoreline erosion, rapidly fluctuating water levels and habitat disruption. A full ecological cumulative-impact assessment of the hydroelectric dams built has never been conducted.
If hydro is so "green", why did Minnesota make its power purchase agreement conditional on Manitoba Hydro reporting how it conducts itself regarding its treatment of indigenous people and the ecological impacts of the dams? Worse yet, why did Doer and his team lobby to have the bill removed after Manitoba Hydro failed to comply with the reporting requirements?
Hydro has shown a distaste for transparency when it comes to releasing the report on the Forks Wind Power study. It seems clear that its strategy seems to be full steam ahead with hydro at any cost, while wind farm developers are needlessly buffeted by an arduous application process. Manitoba Hydro received more than 84 wind farm proposals, but only one was selected.
Why doesn't Manitoba institute a net-metering program like the one already in place in Ontario? Customers generating their own renewable electricity receive credit for any electricity that they put back into the grid. In this way the citizens of Manitoba can decide for themselves if the installation of a solar panel on their roof, or a wind turbine in their field is worthwhile.
The RM of Elton (North of Brandon), for example, has already formed the Elton Energy Co-op with the hope of producing truly clean power for the local people. This municipality, like the rest of Manitoba, are still waiting for the Manitoba Government to make wind power a reality in this province.
Leader of the Green Party of Manitoba