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Aging, degrading Manitoba Hydro infrastructure could cost billions to upgrade

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Manitoba Hydro may needs billions of dollars worth of upgrades for aging infrastructure.

As of 2023, hydro says it's spending more than half a billion dollars on annual capital maintenance. A November 2022 capital asset forecast from Manitoba Hydro, connected to a rate application, says the Crown corporation needs to spend an additional $200 million a year to upgrade aging transmission lines and generating stations.

"Many key asset populations will require significant capital intervention in the next ten to twenty years in order to avoid accelerated system performance degradation and diminished supply,” said Corporate Communications Director Scott Powell.

Powell said this is nothing new.

More money is needed to refurbish older infrastructure but the amount will depend on what Manitoba Hydro can afford, based on rates approved by the provincial regulator and immediate and future needs.

Powell said power supplies are not in jeopardy, yet.

"Without increased maintenance and investment over time customers could experience more frequent power outages of longer duration."

Byron Williams from the Public Interest Law Centre said people should not panic over the forecast. His organization represents consumers, including low income rate payers. Williams isn’t sure if the $200 million dollar number is inflated or not.

"What they call a report we would call a wish list that fails to distinguish between wants and needs,” said Williams.

Premier Wab Kinew is set to release his government’s energy plan in about three months.

"I think there's an opportunity out of this infrastructure requirement,” said Kinew.

Knew said Manitoba Hydro can do the needed upgrades while keeping rates low by using new high tech equipment to replace old infrastructure, like turbines in a dam, which can generate more power.

"What you'll be able to do is get more mega watts out of that project,” said Kinew. “Now if we can go sell that to a new manufacturing plant or if we can export that to the (United) States, that's going to help keep your bills here in Manitoba more affordable."

The premier said the plan will have a heavy focus on more wind power, to help add more sources of electricity to the grid for reliability because of drought years at Manitoba Hydro. Kinew also mentioned the former Power Smart program.

Manitoba Hydro also said the Crown corporation is currently working on a new capital forecast, which will be part of it's next rate application. 

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