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.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Calgary blocks traffic lanes to help pathway users maintain two-metre separation

CALGARY — Fans of a decision by Calgary officials to block off… Continue reading

A message from the Advocate publisher

In good times and bad, The Red Deer Advocate has been here… Continue reading

Crucial details of Ottawa’s proposed wage subsidy program expected today

OTTAWA — Businesses and employees across Canada reeling from the COVID-19 crisis… Continue reading

Third Albertan dies, 46 cases in central zone

A third Albertan has died from COVID-19, province announced Sunday. Forty additional… Continue reading

Vaccine not expected until January 2021 for COVID-19, video posted on Alberta premier’s Facebook page shows

Premier Jason Kenney and Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw discuss vaccines

Alberta Health Services provides COVID-19 prevention tips

Alberta Health Services has a number of recommendations for people amid the… Continue reading

Alberta government website has latest COVID-19 statistics

Red Deer Advocate readers can stay up to date on the COVID-19… Continue reading

‘Worse than any flu’: Canadians describe how it feels to have COVID-19

“I woke up with a little scratch in my throat and started trying to cough it up”

Feds rolling out help for charities hit hard by COVID-19 economic slowdown

OTTAWA — The federal government signalled Sunday it is shifting the focus… Continue reading

Five things to watch for in the Canadian business world in the coming week

Thousands have already lost their jobs, while others like grocers look for ways to keep doors open

Athletes, musicians help raise 500,000 euros to fight virus

“It’s a very difficult situation, and for the league to be able to do something like this, it makes players, clubs and fans very proud”

Tokyo Olympics: Signs suggest summer dates for 2021 Olympics

Organizing committee suggested there would be no major change from 2020.

Most Read