Letter to the Editor, Winnipeg Free Press. August 9, 2018

Except for some final testing, the Bipole III project is essentially complete. Hydro personnel who worked on it are understandably proud.

However, last week’s deadly tornado at Alonsa is an ominous reminder that all is not well with Bipole III. The tornado touched down only a few kilometres from the new line. Luckily, it missed.

Billing Bipole III as a reliability project on nothing more than supposition, Hydro never tabled the detailed study the project warranted. In reality, Hydro seems to have ignored the risk posed by a west-side routing through Manitoba’s "tornado alley."

The Bipole III Coalition warned of this real risk seven years ago in Clean Environment Commission hearings. But Hydro dismissed those warnings just as it later dismissed the coalition’s concerns with its entire development plan.

Bipole III’s commissioning will be completed soon. At that point, it will cease to be a capital development project and become part of the system. That will trigger a new requirement for the annual recovery out of operating revenue of carrying charges (amortization of the cost of building it, plus interest on borrowed funds) plus annual operation and maintenance costs.

Part of the electricity Bipole III carries will be used by Manitobans but part will be exported, mainly to a U.S. market that is unwilling to pay the prices on which construction of the project was predicated. Barring action by the provincial government to allay rate shock, the full impact of the shortfall will be absorbed by Manitoba ratepayers.

What a sorry ending to this project. Initially, it was intended to be built on the east side of the province where its shorter length would have allowed it to share the existing terminal facilities of Bipoles I and II. At less than $1.5 billion, its total cost would have been a fraction of the $5 billion it has ended up costing.

Garland Laliberte

Bipole III Coalition