Canadian Spotlight

Manitoba Hydro announces workforce cuts, rate increases

Manitoba Hydro announced in early February that it will eliminate more than 15% of its workforce while raising rates by at least 10% as the provincial utility’s efforts to cut expenditures continue.

Manitoba Hydro will shrink its 6,200-person workforce by 900 positions. President and Chief Executive Officer Kelvin Shepherd said the cuts equate to a savings up to about US$49.7 million. The company said it will institute a “voluntary departure plan” this spring to assist in the reduction process.

“These changes are a necessary first step towards achieving cost reductions within Manitoba Hydro and positioning us to execute on our strategic priorities that we have identified as cored to Hydro’s success,” Shepherd said.

The company is also making executive-level cuts, with three vice president positions already eliminated.

The moves come as Manitoba Hydro’s debt continues to mount. Sources report the company’s debt was about $10 million this past fall and could increase to more than $19 million within the next three years.

Emera moves forward on proposed Atlantic Link transmission line

Emera Inc. has initiated a solicitation process for energy to be bundled with transmission capacity on its proposed Atlantic Link submarine electricity transmission project. This 350-mile-long submarine high-voltage direct current (HVDC) electric transmission line is proposed to deliver 900 MW of clean energy, including hydropower, into the ISO-New England market.

The line will run from a new DC converter station to be constructed at Coleson Cove, New Brunswick, Canada, to a new converter station to be built at one of two proposed landing sites in Massachusetts, U.S.

The Atlantic Link will be 100% owned by Emera, with NB Power holding an option to participate as minority investor. Stakeholder and permitting activities are under way, and the line will be in service by the end of 2022, Emera says. Power Advisory LLC, an independent administrator, will receive proposals from qualified parties willing to offer energy until April 12, 2017.

Energy transmitted on the line will be bundled with transmission services provided by the Atlantic Link and will be advanced by Emera in response to a clean energy request for proposals for up to 9.45 TWh (or about 1,200 MW) of hydro and/or wind energy that is expected in early 2017 from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, according to a press release from Emera.

Ice blockage takes Yukon Energy’s 22-MW Aishihik hydro plant offline

Frazil ice blocking the trashrack at the 22-MW Aishihik hydro plant in Yukon caused a power outage and took the plant offline in late January, according to Canada’s CBC News.

The blockage was confirmed via use of an underwater camera. The ice prevented water from reaching the turbines, causing a reduction in generation and the resulting power outage. Replacement power came from the company’s 40-MW Whitehorse Rapids and 15-MW Mayo hydro facilities, along with diesel and LNG generation and Yukon Energy dispatched a crew with a steam truck to remove the ice.

Janet Patterson, Yukon Energy spokesperson, said this rare event has not happened in 25 years.

Aishihik has been generating electricity from the Yukon River since 1975. It originally was built with a capacity of 15 MW, and a third, 7-MW turbine-generator unit was added in 2011. Aishihik produces about 25% of the total electricity generated by Yukon Energy annually.

Astaldi, Muskrat Falls negotiate to complete civil works

Muskrat Falls Corp. and contractor Astaldi have negotiated terms to complete construction of the powerhouse, intake and spillway for the 824-MW Muskrat Falls hydropower plant.

The Astaldi Group has been blamed for delays that were cited in a lawsuit filed against the Muskrat Falls Corp. by Andritz Hydro Canada Inc. in May 2016, in which Andritz said Astaldi needed to complete concrete foundations and other work before it could begin its work on the project.

Astaldi’s new agreement with Muskrat Falls Corp. is worth about US$1.35 billion and establishes a new timeline for the plant’s completion. The contractor also said “all disputes and outstanding commercial items have been addressed,” although the terms are still subject to regulatory approval.

“The constructive dialogue built and developed with the client over the past years has allowed us to reach a full understanding over our contract’s objectives and timing,” Astaldi Chief Executive Officer Filippo Stinellis said. “The challenging work and its environment have made the negotiation process complex and we are satisfied for having reached this agreement.”

Muskrat Falls has sparked controversy throughout its development, although multiple studies have defended it as the least-cost option for future power generation. The plant will be located on the Churchill River in Labrador downstream from the existing Churchill Falls plant and is one component of the Lower Churchill complex.

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Canadian Spotlight

Quebec and Ontario sign C$1 billion hydropower agreement

Over a seven-year period in a deal worth an estimated C$1 billion (US50 million), Ontario will be allowed to annually import up to 2 TWh of hydropower from Quebec.

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne and Philippe Couillard, Quebec premier, signed the deal originally announced in October, at a Dec. 15 ceremony during a joint cabinet meeting of the two governments.

Ontario estimates it will save 0 million (US$52.5 million) over the life of the deal versus previous energy cost forecasts, Wynne said.

As part of the agreement, Hydro-Quebec will use the inflow of the dammed rivers in its storage facilities through their large reservoirs to produce 500 GWh of hydropower on demand. This will permit Quebec to reduce its surplus generation, which will likely be beneficial to both provinces in solving their energy needs.

Wynne estimated Ontario’s annual greenhouse gas emissions will be reduced by about one metric ton, and she said current transmission lines between the two provinces can handle even more power, but left room for Ontario to invest in infrastructure.

“Our understanding is that there is still capacity and we will be as ambitious as we can and at some point there may need to be some infrastructure investment,” she said. “But there is still room to improve and expand the partnership.

Canadian renewable energy report released

The Canadian Council on Renewable Electricity (CCRE) released its report, “Canada’s Advantage: A Vision for Renewable Electricity in Canada,” which identifies renewable electricity resources that will cut carbon pollution as Canada shifts from fossil fuels to clean energy.

CCRE released the report in advance of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau hosting a First Ministers’ Meeting and a meeting with First Nations, Inuit, and Metis leaders Dec. 9 in Ottawa, in Ontario, to discuss, amongst other things, clean energy growth and climate change.

CCRE said in the report that one of the ways in which Canada will reduce its use of fossil fuels involves using smart grids and cites information that conveys, “Renewable power is not only a key factor in driving the need for a smart grid, but also in making a better grid possible.”

In its mention of key factors driving the need for a smart grid, the report says, “Canada has a critical advantage over many other jurisdictions to help smooth over variability issues [related to smart grids]: substantial hydropower resources.

“Electricity grids have always required storage and flexible resources, and hydro power is the only large scale, dispatchable non-emitting resource that can both store electricity and very rapidly ramp up and down (increase or reduce its supply) in response to changing requirements.”

Abundant renewable electricity resources offer the country a competitive advantage in global efforts to cut carbon pollution and deliver clean growth and can power Canada’s economy as it shifts from fossil fuels to clean energy, according to the report.

Hydropower industry executives added their thoughts related to the report and the need for clean energy growth in Canada.

“Different sources of renewable electricity have different attributes that, when put together, can complement each other to ensure we have clean, reliable and affordable electricity across Canada,” said Elisa Obermann, Marine Renewables Canada executive director.

“Canada is a trading nation, and the renewable electricity sector can step up its contribution to clean growth,” said Jacob Irving, Canadian Hydropower Association president. “From exporting clean electricity to the United States, to sharing our technologies and know-how with countries around the world, we can compete in the fast-growing global market for clean energy solutions.”

Worker’s death halts construction at 1,550-MW La Romaine

Canadian utility Hydro-Quebec halted all work on its 1,550-MW La Romaine hydroelectric project after a rockface collapsed, killing a worker on Dec. 9.

Luc Arpin, 51, was killed when the rockface collapsed onto him.

“The site of the accident is not safe,” a Hydro-Quebec spokesman told the Canadian Broadcasting Co. “It’s still unstable. We cannot risk the health of other workers at the moment.”

Arpin’s death is the fourth since work began at La Romaine in 2009, prompting the utility to create a committee to examine the safety practices at the site that will be co-chaired by Hydro-Quebec President and Chief Executive Officer Eric Martel.

La Romaine is a four-powerhouse complex located on the north shore of the Gulf of St. Lawrence that will ultimately include 270-MW Romaine 1, 640-MW Romaine 2, 395-MW Romaine 3, and 245-MW Romaine 4.

The US$5 billion project is expected to be complete by 2020.