Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Deregulation Debacle In Alberta

Press Release by Joe Anglin

Alberta’s deregulation debacle raised its ugly head on Tuesday, once again, when Alberta Energy announced that both ATCO and AltaLink have been granted permission to apply to construct and operate new electric transmission lines between Edmonton and Calgary.

Minister of Energy Mel Knight said the two transmission lines “will facilitate expanded wind-generated power, more low emission co-generation facilities, hydro and next generation clean coal plants,” He further stated, “they will also reduce the losses on existing lines that cost Alberta consumers more than $220 million last year.”

The fact that the Minister doesn’t have the authority to approve the need for the transmission lines until Bill 50 is passed this fall, (what are the odds), and the fact that wind generation north of Calgary is non-existent and there are no plans to remove or stop transmitting over the high-loss existing transmission lines seems just as irrelevant to the Minister’s announcement as the fact that the older thirty and forty year-old coal fired generators will still continue to operate and burn coal, but at an increased capacity.

Alberta Energy’s rules require that a cost benefit analysis be completed before any project is undertaken. The rules further state that industry must contribute to the costs of building the lines, equal to the percentage industry will benefit from the lines. In 2005 the Alberta Electric System Operator (AESO) admitted it never did a cost benefit analysis on the proposed transmission line. As of this date no one has done a cost benefit analysis to see if this is the right proposal, or to evaluate to what degree industry will benefit. In 2005 Alberta Energy ruled that the public would pay for the transmission line even though transcripts revealed the line was going to transmit an average of 750 MW, which would increased export capacity by 750MW.

This is no small matter! Alberta Energy is proposing over $14 billion in upgrades to Alberta’s transmission system and they are doing it without the benefit of knowing – what they are doing! Without conducting a cost benefit analysis the Minister (and public) doesn’t know if it is more practical or economical to upgrade the grid east to west verses north to south – or how much we should invest in an upgrade. We do know however that Epcor, TransAlta, and TransCanada have all confirmed that if we do not build transmission lines that connect up to the United States, Albertans will have excess capacity and cheap electricity rates. To add fuel to this fire, power deregulation insider David Gray, the former Utilities Consumer Advocate, recently stated in regards to de-regulation, "Power bills will 'crush' consumers."

It is time we evaluated the de-regulation of the electricity industry before we invest in any transmission up-grades. De-regulation has made our electricity system less reliable, less efficient, and more costly. Up to now de-regulation has not worked, and all the evidence suggests that Albertans are poised to get gouged on their electric bills once again. Before we spend a cent we need a full and complete transparent review of what the public needs. We don’t need Bill 50 passed so the government can make decisions unchallenged and in secret.

Joe Anglin is a political activist in Alberta and can be contacted as follows:

Joe Anglin
Lavesta Area Group
(403) 843-3279

1 comment:

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