Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Conversation Required

By Joe Anglin

For nearly a decade the Alberta Electric System Operator (AESO) and AltaLink LLP have gone to great lengths to keep the public out of the conversation about the need for new transmission lines in Alberta. AltaLink went so far as to register as a lobbyist for the passage of Bill-50. Bill-50 subsequently passed as the Electric Statues Amendment Act eliminated the public’s right to question the need for new transmission lines. Now Alison Redford has been elected as our new Premier and the conversation about transmission lines is back. Will Premier Redford restore the public’s right to be part of the conversation?

This is a question that has far reaching implications for all Albertans. Since deregulation of the electricity system Albertans have been gouged by ever increasing [extra charges] on their electricity bills. The extra charges have prompted jokes claiming that it would be cheaper to drive a truck to a local generator, and recharge a series of battery to bring back to the farm, rather than suffer the administrative and transmission charges tacked onto our bills by companies like AltaLink.

All joking aside, the question remains! What do Albertans really need? If we need to upgrade our transmission system, how do we do it for the maximum benefit of Albertans? If we need more electricity in one particular geographic area of the province, what is the best solution? Transmission lines are not always the best solution. Why? Transmission lines only transfer electricity from one location to another. Electricity transmitted from Edmonton to Calgary means that the electricity transmitted is not available for consumption in Edmonton.

The Heartland transmission line project illustrates the problem created by Bill-50. AESO and AltaLink claim a $580 million dollar transmission line is required to increase the amount of electricity in the Heartland. However, for less than half the cost of a transmission line, ($263 million dollars to be exact), Capital Power has proven that it can build a new generator in the Heartland that would actually increase the amount of electricity in the Heartland by 43%.

From the public’s perspective, it is far more prudent to build a generator in the Heartland. For the Premier’s benefit this is a $317 million dollar savings she could use to refund education. However, if it is our primary intention to provide AltaLink with an income, then a transmission line at twice the cost would be more appropriate.

Premier Redford, what say you? Will you restore the public’s right to question the need for new transmission lines? Will you restore the law that requires that we build what is in the best interest for all Albertans? Will you invite the public back into the conversation? After all, the public is paying for these projects. Let us know by your actions: Repeal Bill-50 and void the Heartland hearings. Cancel the scheduled HVDC hearings. Let’s have an informed conversation based on facts and evidence to determine what is best for Albertans.

Joe Anglin
(403) 843-3279
(403) 963-0521 (cell)

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