01/24/2018 09:38 EST | Updated 01/25/2018 14:03 EST

Details scant on Manitoba's plans for new energy efficiency Crown agency

WINNIPEG — A new Crown corporation aimed at promoting energy efficiency in Manitoba is to be operating later this year, although its budget, staffing levels and other details have yet to be worked out.

Crown Services Minister Cliff Cullen announced the creation of Efficiency Manitoba on Wednesday, but offered little as to how it will work. The executives who will run it have yet to be chosen, he said.

"Certainly we'll be moving ahead in the next few months to get the board in place, get a CEO in place and getting those details together," Cullen said.

The corporation will take over programs from Manitoba Hydro that encourage consumers and businesses to save energy, such as subsidies for people who switch to efficient appliances. The idea was first promoted in 2014 by provincial regulators who said it didn't make sense to have one agency both selling energy and promoting efficient use of it.

The Progressive Conservatives promised in the 2016 election campaign to set up a separate entity to promote energy efficiency. They later ousted backbencher Steven Fletcher from caucus when he criticized the move.

Fletcher has said a whole new Crown corporation is expensive and unnecessary.

Cullen said Efficiency Manitoba will help the province keep its energy use in check. The government is currently racking up billions of dollars in debt for new generating stations on northern rivers and an extensive transmission line that will bring hydro electricity south.

The corporation will be tasked with reducing growth in electrical consumption by 22.5 per cent over 15 years and in natural gas consumption by 11.25 per cent over the same period.

The Building Owners and Managers Association of Manitoba, which represents commercial and institutional properties, said it is anxious to see whether the new body will offer rebates and other programs similar to those currently offered by Manitoba Hydro.

"There's been some confusion as to what some of the programs will be going forward and which programs will actually continue," said Tom Thiessen, the association's executive director.