Power line foes vow to fight on

Albertans can brace themselves for some power bill shock now that the province’s latest transmission mega-project has been approved, says Wildrose Party utilities critic Joe Anglin.

Albertans can brace themselves for some power bill shock now that the province’s latest transmission mega-project has been approved, says Wildrose Party utilities critic Joe Anglin.

Although it was announced on Thursday that the $1.5-billion Western Alberta Transmission Line has been approved, the fight isn’t over, vows Anglin, a longtime critic of the government’s multibillion-dollar transmission plans.

“The reason I’m still opposing this is the cost to Albertans,” said the Wildrose MLA for Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre on Friday.

“To me, it’s a subsidy to support export.”

Anglin said the Alberta Electric System Operator, which oversees the province’s power grid, estimated recently that transmission charges on electric bills will go up 400 per cent in the next two years.

Anglin said he has nothing against export, but not on the backs of taxpayers. The project wouldn’t happen if Albertans weren’t paying for the lines because it wouldn’t be economical, he added.

When oil and gas companies want to build a pipeline, they pay the cost, take the risk and determine the best way to do it to make it financially viable.

“With electricity, we’re forcing the public to pay for it and we’re not telling the truth what it’s really for, and we give the owner, which in this case is AltaLink, a guaranteed income.

“Talk about a system that’s upside down.”

AESO spokesman Kelly Yagelniski refutes the transmission charge numbers that Anglin credited to AESO.

“As far as I know, that is not correct, that is not something we’ve been saying.”

The cost of the project is expected to add $1 in monthly transmission charges for residential customers for each $1 billion of new infrastructure built.

A rate impact analysis prepared by AESO shows that a typical monthly transmission charge of $10.40 on a bill of $93.52 this year is expected to double to $20.80 by 2018.

AltaLink and AESO have repeatedly rejected suggestions the line will be used to export power to the U.S.

AltaLink president and CEO Scott Thon reiterated on Thursday that the Western Alberta Transmission Line and a matching Eastern Alberta Transmission Line are necessary improvements to electrical infrastructure that hasn’t seen any significant upgrades in 30 years.

Rimbey-area farmer Jim Vetsch was among those who raised concerns about the impact on ratepayers at the public hearing last summer in Red Deer into the Western Alberta Transmission Line.

He wasn’t reassured by the answers he got then and doesn’t feel any better about it now.

“It’s really going to put a strain on the pocketbook of the ratepayer,” he said.

The transmission portion of his bill has already tripled in the last couple of years, and that was before any major power line projects had to be funded, he said.

“Every structure they have placed and every mile (of line) is going to cost somebody — and it’s going to be the ratepayer.”

Despite the opposition, there was no doubt in Vetsch’s mind that the lines would be approved once they were deemed critical infrastructure by the province.

“They did that for one reason and one reason only, in my mind, to railroad this through without proving the need for it.”

Vetsch’s property won’t be crossed by the new line, but he has a pair of 240-kilovolt lines crossing his land. They will not be removed but will serve as secondary lines.

Don Bester, of the Alberta Surface Rights Group, said ratepayers will pay the price for the transmission over-build.

“As Albertans, we all have to take a serious look at how this is going to impact us.”

pcowley@bprda.wpengine.com

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