Rural landowners who fought plans for a major power line through farms their believe the province has made an end run around them.
Margo Staniforth, partner with her husband, Gordon in a grain farm and berry orchard near Benalto, said on that Bill 50, which smooths the way for building major power lines, deprives landowners of everything the Lavesta Group gained when its members fought plans for a major power line that would run through their fields and past their homes.
Staniforth was unable to join protests in Edmonton recently, but offers her full support to people who oppose the route as well as the resulting cost to consumers.
The Alberta Electric System Operator recently announced $8 billion in major projects and another $6.4 billion in local and regional projects for a total of $14.5 billion in construction from 2012 through 2017.
Every $1 billion spent would add about $1 per month to residential consumers’ monthly bills, said Neil Millar, AESO’s vice-president, transmission. The additional charges would be phased in over time, and would not start to appear until the new systems start delivering power, said Millar.
Farmers are torn up about the charges because they feel the estimated increase on their bill will subsidize commercial sales of electricity into Montana, said Staniforth.
“It’s double dipping. We know they’re exporting power to Montana,” she said.
“I’m just incensed about this. It’s an assault on the family farm.”
Leigh Clarke, senior vice-president of Calgary-based AltaLink, confirmed that electrical consumers will bear the full cost of construction for all new lines and upgrades.
But all of the upgrades and new construction are for the use of Alberta consumers only and AltaLink has never had any plans to deliver electricity outside of the province, said Clarke.
“AltaLink does not sell power to Montana. The only thing AltaLink does is move power within Alberta for Albertans,” said Clarke.
“That’s what these projects are about. These lines are needed to ensure that we can keep the lights on in Alberta, hook up new generation in Alberta, and serve customers in Alberta.”
New lines, both major and regional, are needed to accommodate growth within the province and the resulting increase in electrical use, said Millar.
However, there are some opportunities for commercial enterprises to buy and sell electricity from the provincial grid, he said.
Among its benefits, construction would improve capacity on the existing line that ties Alberta and British Columbia, built so generators in either province can provide electricity to the other as needed.
“Electricity does get sold out of Alberta, generally at night when our coal-fired units have power that is surplus to Alberta needs,” said Millar.
The ability to sell surplus is a spinoff benefit for the generators, he said.
“Over the last six years, we’ve purchased back into Alberta more power than we’ve sold,” he said.
“The existing tie line provides a huge reliability benefit and also provides some incentive that, if someone builds in Alberta and it’s a little early, that they have a way to move their surpluses.”