The public is sending clear messages over large-scale transmission projects being proposed near their rural homes across Alberta, says a speaker at the Synergy Alberta conference on Tuesday.
Leanne Dawkins, community relations advisor with Alberta Electric System Operator (AESO), said she’s attended close to 60 public open houses in the last 18 months.
Some of those meetings involved a proposed 500-kilovolt transmission line between Edmonton and Calgary.
“I can tell you the two biggest messages I heard at all those open houses were — I don’t want it in my back yard, which is no big surprise,” said Dawkins, speaking at the conference in Red Deer. “The second message, if you are going to build it, build it big and make sure it lasts for 30 or 40 years, and don’t come back.”
AESO is an independent organization which identifies the needs for transmission lines but doesn’t build them.
It is now saying two multi-billion-dollar transmission lines are needed along the Edmonton-Calgary corridor, one which would run through a corridor that straddles Hwy 2 while the other would be strung along a route further east and roughly in line with Castor and Hanna.
Dawkins said the demand for power has increased by 28 per cent since 2000.
“Peak demand growth is forecasted at three per cent over the next 20 years,” Dawkins said.
“This is equivalent to adding two cities the size of Red Deer each year.”
Dawkins said it is slower to build nuclear and hydro plants than an average transmission line.
There is growing interest in wind power, she said. Currently, there is 500 megawatts of power devoted to wind.
More than 15,000 proposed megawatts of wind are waiting to come on stream, mainly on the south and north ends.
The two-day Synergy Alberta conference finishes today and has brought about 250 community stakeholders together. Synergy groups provide the opportunity for communities to have more meaningful, ongoing participation in decisions that directly affect them.
“It helps groups to come to a mutual understanding so they can head off issues,” said Synergy Alberta executive director Gary Redmond.