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Energy on the table as Alberta and Manitoba premiers meet

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley speaks during an onstage interview, in Calgary, on October 9, 2015.

Larry MacDougal/THE CANADIAN PRESS

The NDP premiers of Alberta and Manitoba met Friday to discuss energy and climate issues, including the potential sale of hydroelectricity from Manitoba to Alberta.

"Obviously we have a very vibrant renewable energy provider here in Manitoba, and for a province that's looking to reduce its overall carbon footprint, I'm very excited about the opportunity to have our officials work with Manitoba officials to look at the options that might be there for us," Alberta Premier Rachel Notley said following the meeting.

"We are phasing out coal-fired production by the year 2030, and so we need to have as many options, as many levers, at our disposal as we can."

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Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger said the move could help Alberta reduce greenhouse gas emissions and be part of a beefed-up national east-west power grid. Most hydro-producing provinces currently focus exports on the United States.

"We've talked about this among all the premiers, as part of the Canadian energy strategy. We want to provide better connections among all of our provinces and territories across the country."

Manitoba Hydro, the province's Crown-owned utility, signed an agreement with Saskatchewan last September to sell 100 megawatts of power — enough to provide electricity to 40,000 homes. Even that relatively small amount will require new transmission capacity between the two provinces.

Building sizable transmission capacity to Alberta would be a long-term and costly project. Provinces have previously pressed the federal government, without success, for help in funding a national east-west grid.

Selinger said all governments may be more open to the idea now that there are new national emissions targets and a greater desire for clean energy options such as hydro.

"There's a growing recognition among ... our various jurisdictions that we can support each other with firm clean power upon which you can build a renewables alternative."

The two premiers signed an agreement that, in broad terms, commits their provinces to further emissions reductions and energy efficiency. The deal also includes a commitment to share information and develop co-operative measures related to energy conservation programs.

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