Canadian utilities are raking in windfall profits from power exports to the neighbouring US. During the first six months of this year hydro-quebec, a provincially owned utility with an installed capacity of nearly 31,400MW, earned C$768M (US$512M), more than double its earnings from exports for the same period in 1999. Hydro Quebec (HQ) exports power developed at its hydro dams in Quebec to the state of New York and to the northeastern US, where power prices during the summer soared to ten times their normal price. HQ supplies about 8% of the power used in New England and as much as 6% of New York state’s supply.
BC Hydro, based in Vancouver on Canada’s west coast, said its electricity trading revenue increased by 53% to C$1.12B (US$0.75B) in the year ending 31 March 2000. BC Hydro, with an installed capacity of about 11,000MW, sells electricity to the US northwestern states and California. Power prices in California surged this summer to 40 times higher than during periods of low demand. Some of Canada’s smaller municipal utilities, like Enmax and Epcor, have also requested permission from the federal government to sell power in the US spot market.
Meanwhile, environmental and human rights groups in the US state of Minnesota are protesting over power imports from Canadian utility Manitoba Hydro.
The groups have alleged Manitoba Hydro operations damage the environment and neglect the rights of aboriginal groups. The groups are urging the US utility Xcel Energy, formerly Northern States Power, to stop acquiring electricity from the Canadian utility. Manitoba Hydro supplies approximately 12% of the electricity needs of Xcel’s upper midwest customers.
Manitoba Hydro acknowledges that hydro developments on the Nelson and Churchill rivers in northern Manitoba, constructed decades ago, changed the land and affected local communities, including those of five aboriginal groups who lived in the area. However, through the Northern Flood Agreement, the utility has reached settlements with four of the five affected groups. Discussions with the fifth, the Cross Lake Cree, have not yet resulted in settlement.