The government made the right move by putting hearings on contentious power lines on hold, said Joe Anglin, who has long been critical of the way electricity upgrades have been handled.
Premier Alison Redford promised a review of transmission during the leadership race and a formal request to suspend the hearings was made by Energy Minister Ted Morton to the Alberta Utilities Commission on Wednesday. Morton said the province is reviewing its approach to two critical infrastructure projects, including the Western Alberta Transmission Line running from Edmonton to Calgary on a line west of Rimbey.
“It just didn’t seem logical to proceed without first knowing what the new policies are going to be,” said Anglin.
“I’m very pleased they suspended all this. We do need to review it.
“We’ve never had a discussion, we’ve never been able to analyze the proof of what is needed for Albertans.”
Anglin said the government needs to take a step back and reconsider whether the $16 billion worth of proposed power line projects is required. “That’s critical to making a good economic decision.”
He also wants to see the government go the extra mile and take a close look at the entire power line process, which has dragged on for years and been mired in controversy.
There are real questions about the independence of the Alberta Electric System Operator, which oversees the province’s power grid and is supposed to be at arm’s length from government, he said.
Minister of Intergovernmental, International and Aboriginal Relations Cal Dallas said the province recognizes more transmission is needed but the process needed to be reviewed.
The premier made it clear during the leadership race that Albertans had said they wanted a process in place that met their needs, said Dallas, who is MLA for Red Deer South.
Sheldon Fulton, of the Industrial Power Consumers Association of Alberta, applauded the government’s decision.
“It’s good to see at least we’ve got the two hearings delayed,” he said, referring to public hearings that were to begin soon on the 500-kilovolt Western Alberta and Eastern Alberta Transmission Lines. The eastern line will run north-south on line with Hanna and Castor.
Fulton said the association sent Redford a letter after she became premier urging a moratorium on the three lines and an in-depth review of transmission plans.
The organization that represents major industrial electricity users has criticized transmission plans as an over-build that will drive up costs for companies and hurt their ability to compete.
The review needs to be comprehensive, independent and include a detailed look at transmission planning and its economics to determine if it is affordable for Albertans, he said.
AESO spokeswoman Dawn Delaney said despite the government’s decision it is “business as usual,” for the non-profit entity.
“At this point in time the need for reinforcement of the transmission system remains and the need hasn’t gone anywhere.”
The organization’s mandate is to provide a “robust” transmission system that provides reliable service.
“That continues to be our area of focus and we continue to look forward to further discussions with the government as they review their approach over the coming months.”
AESO does not know yet what the government’s review will entail, but if there are any changes to legislation they will be incorporated into the organization’s plans.
“At this stage in the game though there is nothing confirming for us there will be any delays to these projects, which would obviously be our key concern.”
— copyright Red Deer Advocate