Power system must be upgraded: execs

Alberta’s power grid faces dire reliability problems if the system isn’t substantially upgraded soon, two key players in the industry said Thursday.

CALGARY — Alberta’s power grid faces dire reliability problems if the system isn’t substantially upgraded soon, two key players in the industry said Thursday.

TransAlta Corp. (TSX:TA), which produces most of the province’s electricity from mainly coal-fired power plants, needs a top-notch transmission system to get its product to customers, chief executive Steve Snyder said.

However, there hasn’t been a major power infrastructure project built in the province since the 1970s, even though the population has skyrocketed since then.

“It shouldn’t be a surprise that our system is starting to fall behind North American reliability standards,” Snyder told a Calgary business audience Thursday.

And that’s a “scary spot to be in,” said Scott Thon, chief executive officer of AltaLink, which operates more than 11,800 kilometres of transmission lines and about 270 substations in Alberta.

“Day in and day out our reliability has gone down, our events of breakdowns have skyrocketed over the last five years. We’ve had two major substation explosions, even in this last year,” Thon said.

“If there’s one thing that keeps me up at night, it’s whether we’ll be able to keep the lights on through southern Alberta.”

A major system upgrade is necessary if energy new renewable sources, like wind and biomass, are to make their way to consumers, said Snyder, whose company recently this week agreed to acquire green power producer Canadian Hydro Developers Inc. (TSX:KHD) for $755 million.

“The intermittent nature of many of the emerging renewable generation resources stresses the current grid system,” Snyder said.

“A strong, centralized system enables more renewables expansion. The market wants new renewables. It’s a simple equation.”

The two CEOs were wading into the fierce debate surrounding Alberta’s Bill 50, which would jump-start the construction of high-voltage power lines between Calgary and Edmonton.

One of the most vocal critics has been the City of Calgary-owned power company Enmax Corp., which has said the project could triple the transmission cost on consumers’ energy bills over 10 years.

That could result in an additional $300 per year for a typical single-family home, Enmax says on its website.

“I think there is a lot of misused information, out of context information and quite frankly just plain wrong information out in the public domain on this issue,” Snyder said.

There have also been concerns over the lack of a public hearing process about the project, and over whether the upgrade is a means to export more Canadian-produced electricity south of the border.

“This is full-stop about reliability and any notion otherwise is just sensationalism,” Thon said.

Just Posted

Ad firm says controversial billboards promoting Bernier’s party staying up

OTTAWA — The owner of billboards currently showcasing ads that seek to… Continue reading

14 year old and family need community support after teen hit by car

A 14 year old and his family need financial help after the… Continue reading

Police say someone fired paintballs at people outside drug consumption site in Lethbridge

LETHBRIDGE, Alta. — Police in southern Alberta are investigating after they say… Continue reading

Is federal carbon tax killing jobs? Experts say answer isn’t ‘black and white’

REGINA — The Saskatchewan government says the federal carbon tax is killing… Continue reading

New book assesses Trudeau government’s record of living up to pledges

OTTAWA — A new book arriving on the eve of the federal… Continue reading

WATCH: Snakes, lizards and more at the Western Canadian Reptile Expo in Red Deer

The 10th annual Western Canadian Reptile Expo is this weekend in Red… Continue reading

Your community calendar

Tuesday and Sept. 3 The Tony Connelly Singers provide an opportunity to… Continue reading

A look at policy areas scrutinized by a new book on the Trudeau government

OTTAWA — A group of two dozen Canadian academics took a deep… Continue reading

Father of suspected B.C. killer seeks access to video taken before son’s death

VANCOUVER — The father of a suspected killer of three people in… Continue reading

US tech industry becomes hotbed for employee activism

SAN FRANCISCO — When Liz O’Sullivan was hired at the New York… Continue reading

Jolie shares pride in son Maddox, joining Marvel movie

ANAHEIM, Calif. — Angelina Jolie says she’s “so proud” that her 18-year-old… Continue reading

Extinction bites: countries agree to protect sharks and rays

GENEVA — Countries have agreed to protect more than a dozen shark… Continue reading

Trudeau and Trump hold face to face meeting on sidelines of G7 summit

BIARRITZ, France — Justin Trudeau met face-to-face with U.S. President Donald Trump… Continue reading

Study reveals new details of overseas Cold War intelligence effort by Canadians

OTTAWA — Canada enlisted citizens who travelled to Communist countries during the… Continue reading

Most Read