Concerns about Alberta’s Power Price Review
The motives of the Retail Market Review Committee, promised by Premier Redford before the spring election, are being questioned by consumer groups and other interveners at committee hearings.
The Edmonton Journal reports that Wendy Armstrong, who represented the Consumers Coalition of Alberta at the hearings, said her members are worried some of the big power producers and retail marketers are using the hearings to push to eliminate the regulated rate and promote fixed-price retail contracts. Her’s and others’ concerns are based on the review committee’s line of questioning for interveners that includes questions about eliminating the regulated rate, not just stabilizing it.
This is yet another example of the Alberta government’s failed experiment in the deregulation of electricity generation and retail. According to Rick Cowburn, former EPCOR Vice-President (Alberta Venture), 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 have been skyrocketing. Power generation and retail deregulation have also failed in the U.S.