Heartland Line Overbuild Says Ex-EPCOR VP
This recent Alberta Venture article reports that former EPCOR Vice-President, Rick Cowburn, says the proposed Heartland Transmission Project is “an insane overbuild”.
Mr. Cowburn joins hundreds of organizations and individual Albertans who have indicated publicly and at the recent Heartland Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC) hearing that the Heartland line is either a massive overbuild or is not necessary at all.
The proposed double circuit 500kV line is rated to carry a whopping 6,000 megawatts of electricity from coal-fired generation at Wabamun to the Industrial Heartland. This compares to peak provincial demand of about only 10,000 megawatts. This means the proposed Heartland line would add 60% of the entire province of Alberta’s peak transmission requirement.
The Alberta Government’s and the Alberta Electric System Operator’s (AESO) initial rationale for this gargantuan power line was the construction of 9 new tar sands upgraders in the Industrial Heartland. Due to changing economic realities that involve tar sands companies shipping bitumen by pipeline to the U.S. where it is cheaper to process, only one upgrader might now be built in the Industrial Heartland. The real irony is none of the upgraders initially planned, or any actually to be built, will require dirty coal-fired electricity from Wabamun because they will be co-generating their own cleaner electricity on-site.
And this is one of the reasons why the vast majority of the interveners in the recent Heartland hearing have asked the AUC to deny the application by AltaLink and EPCOR to build this massive power line, the largest ever planned for Alberta.
The Alberta Venture article focuses on Alberta’s failed attempt to deregulate electricity generation and retail. According to Rick Cowburn, there isn’t an area of economic activity in Alberta more beset by failure than electricity. He says, “The glorious experiment that we’ve tried with competitive electric markets is severely challenged – and I’m being polite about it.”
Cowburn goes on to say, “The balancing that we were hoping was going to happen – that there’d be strong retailers who could get some sort of stability and balance in policy – isn’t there.” The retail market remains dominated by the same players that dominated before deregulation began. “They’re the only ones that have the size to be able to function in this thing, and they have all the infrastructure they inherited from the old monopoly system.”
This failed deregulation experiment is being criticized as one of the reasons Alberta electricity costs are skyrocketing. Power generation and retail deregulation have also failed in the U.S.