Alberta green-lights construction of high-voltage power lines

EDMONTON — Alberta moved ahead Thursday with two big-ticket, high-voltage electricity lines while at the same time taking steps to reduce the high cost and volatility of power bills.

EDMONTON — Alberta moved ahead Thursday with two big-ticket, high-voltage electricity lines while at the same time taking steps to reduce the high cost and volatility of power bills.

Energy Minister Ted Morton announced he will ask the Alberta Utilities Commission to proceed with two 500-kilovolt lines running from the Edmonton area down to Calgary and beyond.

The cost has been pegged at about $3 billion.

Morton said he accepted the recent recommendations of an independent panel of experts who said the two lines are needed to service Alberta’s growing population and industry.

“We have to know with complete certainty that when we flip the switch the light will turn on, and turn on at an affordable price,” Morton told reporters at a legislature news conference.

One is AltaLink’s Western Alberta Transmission Line, running 350 kilometres from west of Edmonton at Genessee to an area just east of Calgary. ATCO Electric is pursuing one that would run 500 km from east of Edmonton down to Brooks.

The lines would double Alberta’s current energy capacity.

Morton said he has also asked the agency to look at ways of spreading out the cost of the lines to lessen the immediate impact on ratepayers.

The expert panel estimates the extra cost would be $3 a month on residential power bills.

The lines were among four approved under controversial legislation that allowed cabinet to simply order up the lines rather than go through a public hearing needs assessment under the utilities commission.

The government has said that the four lines were a special one-time, time-critical quick fix and that the legislation will now be amended to return to the public hearings process.

Paul Hinman of the Wildrose Party said other analyses show the lines are a massive overbuild at ratepayers’ expense. The goal, he said, is to reward corporate friends of the governing Progressive Conservatives.

“This is a burden on Alberta. There’s no advantage to do this,” said Hinman.

“We’ve got congestion on highways and overpasses and schools, and they’re saying it’s an electrical problem? It isn’t so.”

Also Thursday, Premier Alison Redford’s government took aim at rising power bills and wildly fluctuating prices for consumers who haven’t opted in on fixed-rate contracts.

Some consumers are reporting that their power bills have been steadily rising for years, with some bills doubling over the same period from a year earlier.

Redford announced during question period they will strike an independent panel to review ways to reduce the rates and price volatility for consumers not on fixed rate contracts.

She said they will also ask the utilities commission to freeze the add-on fees on power bills, which cover such things as administration costs, while the review is underway.

The government will also look to streamline and loosen rules on deposits and financial qualifications to allow more people to buy in to the fixed-rate contracts.

NDP Leader Brian Mason said Redford’s announcement means the government has “blinked.”

But he called the solution nothing more than a Band-Aid from a governing party worried about voter backlash with an election call coming in a month.

Mason said the only solution is to re-regulate the industry.

Just Posted

Red Deer RCMP and Emergency Services battle on the ice

Red Deer police officers and firefighters laced up their skates to raise… Continue reading

WATCH: On 4—20 Day in Red Deer, marijuana users say legal weed a long time coming

Not wanting to wait for the federal government to legalize recreational marijuana,… Continue reading

Former Central Alberta MLA appealing fine for not protecting a list of 20,000 electors

List included names and addresses of voters in Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre

UPDATED: Spring craft sale attracts shoppers

Over 150 artisans at Red Deer craft sale

Proposed Alberta legislation would protect consumers

Alberta Utilities Commission would be given power to penalize natural gas and electricity providers

WATCH: Fine wine and food at Red Deer College

The Red Deer College Alumni Association hosted its 14th annual Fine Wine… Continue reading

Red Deer College wins Community Inclusion Award

Red Deer College is an inclusive institution, and it has an award… Continue reading

Firefighters rescue cat from ice floe in river

WINNIPEG — Firefighters are known for helping cats stuck in trees, but… Continue reading

Doctors warn of cannabis risks for pregnant or breastfeeding users

OTTAWA — The Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists is warning pregnant and… Continue reading

Avicii, DJ-producer who performed around the world, dies

NEW YORK — Avicii, the Grammy-nominated electronic dance DJ who performed sold-out… Continue reading

Red Deer filmmakers are among 2018 Rosie Awards nominees

Cache Productions, Ignition Films in the running for AMPIA Awards

Audit clears Facebook despite Cambridge Analytica leaks

NEW YORK — An audit of Facebook’s privacy practices for the Federal… Continue reading

Marijuana sector firms get marketing pushback as legalization looms

TORONTO — Some Canadian marijuana sector companies are getting pushback against their… Continue reading

Red Deer volleyball player Samantha Gagnon named athlete of the month

A high school volleyball player has been named the Alberta Sport Development… Continue reading

Most Read

Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month