Manitoba could be out of power by 2022, says energy minister

Manitoba must spend billions of dollars building dams and new transmission lines or it will run out of power by 2022, said Energy Minister Dave Chomiak.

Energy Minister Dave Chomiak says province needs to build new dams

Energy Minister Dave Chomiak, seen in a file photo, came out swinging on Wednesday against critics of the Hydro megaprojects. (CBC)

Manitoba must spend billions of dollars building dams and new transmission lines or it will run out of power by 2022, said Energy Minister Dave Chomiak.

The Keeyask generating station is slated to generate another 695 megawatts from the Nelson River, which already produces almost 4,000 megawatts. (Manitoba Hydro)

He came out swinging Wednesday after Graham Lane, the former chair of the public utiltities board (PUB) said Manitoba Hydro's $20 billion gamble — that the U.S. will buy Manitoba power — could bankrupt the province.

If Manitoba doesn't keep building, the lights go out, Chomiak said.

"Manitoba's hydro electric consumption is going up 80 megawatts a year, which is about equivalent to what Saskatchewan's doing, cause our economy's doing pretty good. So we're going to run out in 2022 if we don't do something," he said.

The province is planning to build two Hydro maegaprojects — the Keeyask and Conawapa generating stations and their related transmission facilities — to feed growing energy demand within the province and in the United States.

But there has been a lot of vocal opposition to the projects, with Manitoba's Progressive Conservative leader Brian Pallister calling in September for a full review before they proceed.

Two months later, a regulatory review was announced. The so-called NFAT (Needs For and Alternatives To) review will be conducted by a sub-panel of the PUB.

"By the time we build Keeyask, we'll have run out of power in Manitoba. So if we do nothing, we're going to end up importing power, dirty power, from other places," Chomiak said on Wednesday.

"And that's something Manitobans I know do not want to do."