An AltaLink official says plans are underway to deal with the congestion along Alberta’s electric transmission lines, including in the Red Deer area, that leads to higher costs for consumers.
“We’ve hit some new records in the last 10 days of very cold weather. The congestion is what stops the distribution of the cheapest generated power and provides the electric generators with an opportunity to sell more expensive power. That affects every ratepayer’s bill,” said John Grove, manager of municipal and community relations with AltaLink, during a presentation to the Rotary Club of Red Deer on Monday.
The meeting was attended by minister of Intergovernmental, International and Aboriginal Relations, Cal Dallas (Red Deer South), Finance Minister Ron Liepert, and Red Deer North MLA Mary Anne Jablonski as part of the government’s blitz to meet face-to-face with Albertans.
Grove provided an update on Altalink’s Red Deer Region Transmission Development project, which involves:
• Stage one: upgrading six substations — two in Red Deer, one in Joffre, two north of Joffre and one in Benalto.
• Stage two: rebuilding 75 km of line largely in the Red Deer and Sylvan Lake areas, including a line that goes 12 km through Red Deer from the north to the southwest corner of the city.
• Stage three: building three new substations near Ponoka, Innisfail and Didsbury and transmission line connections in those areas, building a new transmission line east of Lacombe, and removing 25 existing transmission lines between Red Deer and Innisfail.
• Stage four: removing 75 km of transmission line between Wetaskiwin and Lacombe.
AltaLink is still seeking feedback from landowners as part of stage two.
Open houses will be held in Innisfail on Feb. 7, in Lacombe on Feb. 8 and in Ponoka on Feb. 9 to discuss the preferred and alternate routes as part of stage three.
The four stages are expected to cost a total of about $200 million.
The company will file an application with the Alberta Utilities Commission in the spring of 2012. If approved, construction could start in the spring of 2013.
Grove compared the state of electrical transmission lines with rush hour on a freeway.
“In the last 40 years, there have been small upgrades, small additions, but we have not upgraded the backbone or the basic freeway, if you will. We have maintained all the roads, all the back alleys, all the freeways, but the freeways are plugged.”
Red Deer has outgrown its transmission lines, he said.
“The system in Red Deer is between 40 and 50 years old and it’s grown by more than 100,000 people in that period. You can appreciate the strain on the system.”
Grove said the demand for electricity in Alberta has doubled in the last 25 years.
“It grows by about three per cent a year. It actually grows as much in volume as the province of Ontario.”
He said 60 per cent of the power consumed in Alberta is by industrial users, about 18 per cent is commercial, 16 per cent is residential and about four per cent is farm.
Consultations with Red Deer residents were held last summer for stage two. Based on feedback, AltaLink is considering rerouting sections of a line that runs in Riverside Light Industrial area and in the Pines neighbourhood.
Robin Boschman, senior communications advisor with AltaLink, said the viability of rerouting is still being examined.
“We may or may not include those reroutes in our application,” Boschman said.
The application becomes public when it is filed with Alberta Utilities Commission.