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Nelson River hydro plans for northern Manitoba

August 24, 2013

The Manitoba government announced April 24, 2013 the Public Utilities Board will undertake a detailed review Manitoba Hydro’s development plan. The plan includes two new generation stations ( Keeyask and Conawapa), various sets of AC transmission lines.

Manitoba Hydro alone will invest more than $34 billion in Northern Manitoba over the next 20 years. The main projects to be undertaken are Bipole III Transmission Project, the Keeyask and Conawapa generating stations, their associated domestic AC transmission facilities and a new Canada-U.S. transmission interconnection.

The Conawapa generation site is currently being studied for possible hydroelectric development. The site is located about 30 km. downstream of the existing Limestone Generating Station and 70 km upstream of the Nelson River Estuary and 90 km downstream (east) of Gillam, MB.

The Conawapa Generating Station is a clean and renewable energy project that would be the largest project of its kind in Manitoba’s history.  Generating 1,485 megawatts (MW) capacity, the station would produce about 7,000 gigawatt hours (GWh), enough to service the equivalent of 636,000 homes with clean (low carbon footprint,) renewable energy. When built, Conawapa would increase the overall hydroelectric generating capability of the Lower Nelson River to over 4,800 MW. Extensive efforts are being taken to design the project so that, as much as possible, environmental effects are minimized and project benefits enhanced. Studies are currently being conducted to assess project’s environmental and socio-economic effects.

The earliest possible in-service date of the project is 2025. After all environmental and regulatory permits and approvals are in place, construction is expected to take 8 to 8.5 years to bring the first of 10 units on-line. The estimated in-service cost of the project is $10.2 billion (based on 2013 approved estimate).

The proposed Keeyask Generating Station will be a source of renewable energy, providing approximately 695 megawatts of capacity and producing an average of 4,400 gigawatt hours of electricity each year. The renewable hydroelectric energy produced will be integrated into Manitoba Hydro’s electric system for use in Manitoba and for export.

Manitoba Hydro has initiated a collaborative effort with 4 Manitoba First Nations, working together as the Keeyask Hydropower Limited Partnership (KHLP). The parties have negotiated the Joint Keeyask Development Agreement (JKDA), an agreement that governs how the project will be developed, as well as setting out understandings related to potential income opportunities, training, employment, business opportunities, and other related matters. Manitoba Hydro will provide administrative and management services for the KHLP and will own at least 75 per cent of the equity of the partnership. The 4 Manitoba First Nations, known collectively as the Keeyask Cree Nations, together have the right to own up to 25 per cent of the partnership. Individual Adverse Effects Agreements with each of the Keeyask Cree Nations have also been signed.


Manitoba’s ambitious northern development plans centre around huge hydro developments, the largest of which is the Conawapa generation site on the lower Nelson River. This is a massive project that will take most of a decade to plan and permit. The First Nations faced with chronic unemployment and social problems could benefit from economic development in the north if it is planned and managed properly.



Source: Manitoba Wildlands.org