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Provincial agency clears Manitoba-Minnesota 500-kV transmission project

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Provincial agency clears Manitoba-Minnesota 500-kV transmission project

A Manitoba government agency has approved the corridor for a proposed 500-kV electricity transmission network that would carry power from the province's massive hydroelectric projects to the U.S. border at Minnesota.

The Clean-Environment Commission recommended that a Class 3 environmental license be issued for the Manitoba-Minnesota Transmission Project, subject to 16 conditions that range from including Indigenous people in historical resource surveys to providing vegetation screens along the right-of-way for landowners. The report, released Oct. 10, will be forwarded to the National Energy Board, the federal energy regulator, which must approve all electricity export projects. The agency's report also includes 13 recommendations that are not considered necessary to the licensing of the project.

"The commission endeavored to ensure that the environment was protected and maintained in such a manner as to sustain a high quality of life; the review process complemented other planning and policy mechanisms, particularly the principles and guidelines for sustainable development; a thorough environmental assessment of the project had been undertaken; and an opportunity for public consultation had been provided," the report said.

Exports of hydroelectricity to Minnesota and other Midwest states are a key part of province-owned Manitoba Hydro's plan to help pay for expansions to its in-province transmission network and the Keeyask generation project, which are behind schedule and over budget. The proposed line would start at the northwest corner of Winnipeg, Manitoba, and circle the city before heading east and then south toward the U.S. border near Roseau, Minn. The commission based its report input received in public hearings.

In addition to boosting export capacity by 885 MW to 3,185 MW, Manitoba Hydro said the project will double its import capacity of power to 1,400 MW to increase reliability. The province received about 29% of its electricity revenue from exports between 2006 and 2015.

The U.S. portion of the line, known as the Great Northern Transmission Line, will be built by ALLETE Inc. subsidiary Minnesota Power Inc. The utility has already contracted for a portion of the Keeyask hydro project's output. The U.S. portion of the line is expected to cost between US$560 million and US$710 million, depending on the final route. It is expected to be in service June 1, 2020. Minnesota Power has already received approval for the project from Minnesota regulators.