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Powering the future: Manitoba Hydro rises to meet the challenges ahead

Manitoba Hydro doesn’t have a crystal ball but it can predict the future—we’re going to need a LOT more energy in the coming years.

Thanks to surveys with thousands of individual Manitobans and other stakeholders, the Crown corporation is confident in predicting the amount of energy needed in the province will at least double in the next 20 years and may even increase by two-and-a-half times.

“There can be all kinds of changes that accelerate the pace of change and result in a higher load,” says Lindsay Melvin, Hydro’s acting director of integrated resource planning.

Part of that will be due to a growing population but some of it will come from sources you might not have considered. A growing number of large companies now have ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) goals, which can often drive change in terms of how much energy they’re consuming.

For example, a trucking company that electrifies its fleet eliminates its need for gasoline but instead has a significant demand for electricity. Whether its cars and trucks are charged during the day or at night has an impact on when the energy is required.

These and other details are in the utility’s first-ever Integrated Resource Plan (IRP), a key element of its long-term plan, entitled Strategy 2040, to meet the province’s energy needs in the future.

There are six key take-aways from the IRP:

  • The energy transition is underway in Manitoba;
  • Managing the energy transition will be critical to continued safe, reliable and low-cost energy;
  • Investment is required in all scenarios;
  • Strategic use of natural gas assets and gaseous fuels are an integral part of the energy transition in Manitoba;
  • Analysis findings common to all scenarios can inform responses to an accelerated energy transition; and,
  • Future energy-related decisions will require complex considerations.

“There is uncertainty in the future so it’s important to prepare for that. This is our first resource plan and we’re going to continue to analyze the situation. Specific decisions are coming in the future,” Melvin says.

Hydro’s capacity isn’t unlimited so it anticipates not renewing some of its current export contracts so it can ensure it meets the needs in its own backyard. New resources could be required within the next decade, such as wind.

A very efficient resource for Manitoba, wind is low-cost and renewable. The problem is wind may not blow when Hydro needs it to.

“Wind is an intermittent resource. You need to plan for a complementary resource for when the wind isn’t blowing, such as combustion turbines powered by natural gas,” she says.

Of course, Manitoba Hydro won’t be alone as energy utilities around the world all face the challenge of meeting future needs to varying degrees. It does, however, have some advantages that can help it navigate the change. First, previous investments in the province have developed the clean, renewable hydroelectric system that delivers electricity at some of the lowest rates in North America. And second, Hydro’s vertical integration model enables it to supply and deliver both electricity and natural gas.

Melvin says the bulk of Manitoba’s business community is well aware of the province’s future energy needs.

“People are paying attention and they understand the changing landscape,” she says.

Learn more about Manitoba’s energy future at


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