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Budget lands blow on our wind farms

In Tuesday's blockbuster budget, Federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty quietly cancelled the green energy subsidy that helps wind farms -- including the new one planned for St. Joseph -- stay viable. "That's a problem," acknowledged Manitoba Finance Minister Greg Selinger, who is also in charge of Manitoba Hydro. "It makes it harder, no question."

The federal budget blew some bad news on Manitoba's future wind farms, but a plan toz build new and improved transmission lines into Saskatchewan and remote communities might be resuscitated.

In Tuesday's blockbuster budget, Federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty quietly cancelled the green energy subsidy that helps wind farms -- including the new one planned for St. Joseph -- stay viable.

"That's a problem," acknowledged Manitoba Finance Minister Greg Selinger, who is also in charge of Manitoba Hydro. "It makes it harder, no question."

But Selinger said there's still a long-term market for wind power, and the price of wind could rise if U.S. President Barack Obama makes good on promises to embrace green energy.

The subsidy, in place since 2007, is critical to the 300-megawatt wind farm planned for St. Joseph by Australian mega-firm Babcock & Brown, in partnership with Calgary's BowArk. If it gets built, it would be Manitoba's second wind farm and the biggest in Canada.

Babcock & Brown say the pressure is on to get a power purchase agreement, a grid connection and environmental assessments done by early summer. By the fall, all the remaining cash in the... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

The  federal budget blew some bad news on Manitoba's future wind farms, but a plan toz build new and improved transmission lines into Saskatchewan and remote communities might be resuscitated.

In Tuesday's blockbuster budget, Federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty quietly cancelled the green energy subsidy that helps wind farms -- including the new one planned for St. Joseph -- stay viable.

"That's a problem," acknowledged Manitoba Finance Minister Greg Selinger, who is also in charge of Manitoba Hydro. "It makes it harder, no question."

But Selinger said there's still a long-term market for wind power, and the price of wind could rise if U.S. President Barack Obama makes good on promises to embrace green energy.

The subsidy, in place since 2007, is critical to the 300-megawatt wind farm planned for St. Joseph by Australian mega-firm Babcock & Brown, in partnership with Calgary's BowArk. If it gets built, it would be Manitoba's second wind farm and the biggest in Canada.

Babcock & Brown say the pressure is on to get a power purchase agreement, a grid connection and environmental assessments done by early summer. By the fall, all the remaining cash in the program is expected to be gobbled up by other projects.

Babcock & Brown spokesman Colin Edwards said Thursday the St. Joseph wind farm is well on track to meet that deadline.

But the Doer government has committed to building 600 more megawatts of wind power and there are dozens of other potential projects waiting for Manitoba Hydro to issue another round of tenders. Those could be on shaky ground without the federal cash.

"Without the subsidy, the economics of projects will be somewhat more challenging," said Robert Hornung, president of the Canadian Wind Energy Association.

That's especially true in Manitoba, where hydro power is cheap to produce and Manitoba Hydro won't buy wind power unless it's priced pretty much as low as the electricity created by northern dams.

But Hydro got a bit of good news in Tuesday's budget in the form of a $1-billion green infrastructure fund. Flaherty told a Winnipeg radio station earlier this week that some of the cash could be earmarked for transmission lines.

Selinger said Hydro is already cobbling together a pitch for that money, which could be used to connect northern communities like Shamattawa and Tadoule Lake to the power grid.

It could also be used to bolster the province's power exports east and west. Manitoba Hydro and the Doer government have long coddled a dream to pump power to Ontario via a massive power line connecting the northern dams to the southwestern Ontario grid.

But Ontario, which is facing a huge energy deficit as it tries to shut down some of its coal-fired plants, has turned to nuclear energy and has shown little interest in an east-west grid, even though Manitoba has already socked away more than $40 million in federal cash for the project.

More likely is a power sale to Saskatchewan, another coal-burning province.

A deal with that province is progressing well, said Hydro CEO Bob Brennan, though it involves the sale of surplus power, so it wouldn't be as lucrative as billion-dollar, firm power deals with Wisconsin and Minnesota.

But cash to improve the three major transmission lines connecting Manitoba and Saskatchewan could sweeten the deal.

Brennan hopes SaskPower makes a decision well before the end of the year.


Source: http://www.winnipegfreepres...

JAN 30 2009
https://www.windaction.org/posts/18824-budget-lands-blow-on-our-wind-farms
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