Bipole Mired by Resistance

Article excerpt

Electrical resistance refers to how strongly a material opposes the flow of an electrical current, while conductivity refers to an object's ability to carry or conduct a current.

The path of least resistance, on the other hand, is the policy adopted by the Manitoba government in making decisions about Bipole III, the $3.3-billion transmission line to conduct electricity to southern Manitoba and the United States.

The latest example of political decision-making on the most expensive project in the province's history occurred Tuesday when Manitoba Hydro agreed to file a new environmental assessment on a revised route for the transmission line.

The Crown corporation had earlier told the Clean Environment Commission its route changes would be more environmentally friendly, apparently hoping such an assurance would be enough to proceed without an expanded review -- the path of least resistance.

But when aboriginal groups threatened legal action, the principle of conductivity was quickly turned on. There will be a supplemental review, even though Hydro had earlier warned too many delays could have catastrophic consequences, including rolling blackouts if the project isn't completed in five years.

Money is not an issue in the science of resistance and conductivity, but it is when planning a multi-billion-dollar transmission line. The right choice, according to Hydro's own experts, was the east side of the province because it was the shortest route and would have saved money in many ways, including the ancillary costs associated with the longer western route. The final cost of the western route could exceed $4 billion, according to some analysts, at least $1 billion more expensive than the eastern route. …