Manitoba-Nunavut hydro link is economically viable: study

Report calls for next study on $904-million electrical power network


The transmission line route detailed here shows the proposed line would travel over continuous permafrost, indicated by the sold purple background. (IMAGE COURTESY OF BBA)

The transmission line route detailed here shows the proposed line would travel over continuous permafrost, indicated by the sold purple background. (IMAGE COURTESY OF BBA)

A new study commissioned by the Kivalliq Inuit Association says a project connecting Nunavut’s Kivalliq region to Manitoba’s electrical power grid is economically viable, environmentally beneficial, and should move forward without delay.

The estimated cost of the project, which would extend transmission lines north from Churchill, Man., up the western Hudson Bay coast, is about $904 million, says the new scoping study, prepared for the KIA by engineering firm BBA Inc. and released last month.

But the study suggests the project would pay for itself over its estimated 40-year lifetime, delivering projected savings of $40 million a year by replacing fossil fuels from dirty, expensive diesel generators with cleaner hydroelectric power.

The report, called “Hydroelectric Power from Manitoba to the Kivalliq region of Nunavut,” says extending the electric power grid “would generate great socioeconomic and environmental benefits for the population of the Kivalliq region and the development of the mineral industry.”

For Arviat-South MLA Joe Savikataaq, the report says what many Nunavummiut already know — and have been advocating for many years.

“Ever since I’ve been elected I’ve been pushing for this,” he said. “Our power plants are aging and the amount of diesel our communities can hold has to be expended.”

What’s new in this report are the estimated costs of the project — $904 million to connect to five Kivalliq communities, a price tag Savikataaq says is much higher than he first thought.

“The Government of Nunavut can’t fund it alone, that’s for sure,” he said. “At the same time, this project can only save money over the long-term.”

The study looks at extending an existing power line feed from Gillam, Man., which currently ends at Churchill, and building it north to Arviat, Whale Cove, Rankin Inlet, Chesterfield and Baker Lake.

The transmission line could also extend to mine sites in the region, such as Agnico Eagle’s Meadowbank and Meliadine mines, if they’re still in operation by 2025, the power line’s projected completion date.

The preliminary evaluation suggests the feed could provide up to 100 megawatts of power to Nunavut.

The existing transmission line from Gillam to Churchill delivers power at 138 kilovolts (kV) over a distance of about 300 kilometres.

So a higher voltage transmission line of 230 kV would be required to connect Churchill to Rankin Inlet, 615 kilometres away, and then lower feed via community “substations” to traverse the additional 280 kilometres to Baker Lake, the study said.

The Nunavut portion of the project would be owned by the Qulliq Energy Corp., which would purchase the energy from Manitoba Hydro at anywhere between six and 10 cents per kilowatt-hour.

The new study did not look at the potential selling price of electricity from the QEC to its Nunavut customers.

But given Manitoba Hydro’s costs, the Government of Nunavut has said electricity prices could drop significantly from an average of 75 cents per kW-hour, currently charged in the Kivalliq, to about 13 cents per kW-hour.

The report also notes the pressing need for the QEC to upgrade its infrastructure in a region where energy consumption is forecast to grow from 38 gigawatt hours a year to 185 GWh a year by 2035.

At the same time, the study estimates that joining the power grid would mean a drop of 380,000 metric tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions in the region, as well as the foundation for a fibre-optic network.

The study recommends the project move directly to the next stage, which would be a feasibility study on the proposed power line. But funding requests must still be made to provincial, territorial and federal governments.

According to the study’s timeline, a feasibility study should be conducted in 2016, so the project can move forward for environmental consideration and permitting.
Under this model, construction on the power line would begin in 2022 and finish in 2025.

Savikataaq said he plans to bring the details of the report to the next sitting of the legislative assembly, which begins Oct. 21.

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