Power line hearings set

A public hearing is anticipated to last several weeks in Red Deer over a proposed 350-km transmission line running through Central Alberta.

A public hearing is anticipated to last several weeks in Red Deer over a proposed 350-km transmission line running through Central Alberta.

The Alberta Utilities Commission hearing for the Western Alberta Transmission Line begins at 9 a.m. on Monday at Red Deer’s Holiday Inn on 67th Street. The transmission line is proposed to be a 500-kilovolt direct current transmission line, connecting the Genesee area west of Edmonton to the Langdon area east of Calgary.

Calgary-based AltaLink has held 23 open houses and 15 information centres since 2010 regarding the project. Alberta Electric System Operator chose AltaLink to build the western line.

AltaLink reports the line is needed to meet the power demands of Alberta’s growing population. The transmission line between the Edmonton and Calgary areas haven’t been upgraded since 1982 and during that time, Alberta has grown by more than one million people, according to AltaLink.

The deadline to register to speak at the hearing has passed.

Jim Law, spokesman for the commission, said about 200 people have registered on behalf of themselves or for a group. If someone lives within 800 metres of the proposed line, they can register at the door so they have an opportunity to speak or to ask questions. The panel will schedule their appearance over the course of the hearing.

“People can attend as observers,” Law added. “It’s a very open and transparent process.”

This is the first public hearing regarding this line following information sessions.

The provincial government then decided it wanted to take a look into the need for transmission infrastructure through Alberta so the hearing was put on hold until now, Law said.

The hearing will take place through the day to mid-afternoon next week in Red Deer, but there will also be evening sessions next week in Rimbey, Didsbury and Indus in Southern Alberta. The remainder of the schedule will involve all day sessions in Red Deer through the week, except on Fridays when it will end in the early afternoon.

Law said the commission will consider the oral and written submissions and then come up with its written decision on the application, 90 days after the final submission from parties.

The commission will either approve, deny or accept the application with conditions.

AltaLink spokesman Scott Schreiner said the projected construction cost is $1.4 billion.

If approvals are given by the end of this year, construction could start in the first or second quarter of 2013 and would take about two years to complete, he said.

“That means the line would be in service for some time in 2015,” said Schreiner.

There are two proposed routes.

The preferred route is largely on the west side of Hwy 2, from Genesee and Lake Wabumun area directly south to north of Crossfield, before cutting across to east of Hwy 2 and then down to Langdon.

Schreiner said the alternate route is largely on the east side of Hwy 2, then starts moving to the east side just north of Ponoka and then moves south down to the Langdon area.

Earlier this year, the Critical Transmission Review Committee released its report on proposals to build two 500-kilovolt power lines, including the Western Alberta Transmission Line as well as the Eastern Alberta Transmission Line, which would run on through the east-central area of the province from Edmonton to Brooks.

The committee, set up to fulfil a promise by Alison Redford when she was in contention to replace Premier Ed Stelmach, reported that the previous plans pursued by the Alberta Electric System Operator are “reasonable” and urged that construction on both lines begin “as soon as possible.”

It also recommended, however, that the provisions of Bill 50 should be changed, taking the power for deciding which projects are critical away from cabinet and placing it back in the hands of the Alberta Utilities Commission.

Opponents to the projects weren’t so favourable on the report.

Along with the costs to residential consumers will be the jobs lost among industrial consumers for whom it will no longer be viable to operate power-hungry facilities on the Alberta power grid, said Sheldon Fulton, executive director of the Industrial Power Consumers Association of Alberta, in an earlier interview.

For more information about the hearing, go online at www.auc.ab.ca.

ltester@bprda.wpengine.com

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