Alberta Power Industry and Alberta PCs
Almost 3 years following the Alberta PC Government’s passing of one of the most controversial pieces of legislation in Alberta history – Electric Statutes Amendment Act, 2009 (Bill 50) – they are now backtracking and admitting that Albertans need to be involved in reviewing the need for new expensive electricity infrastructure. Alberta Energy Minister, Ken Hughes, introduced legislation (Bill 8) on October 23 to repeal Bill 50 (Calgary Herald, Sherwood Park News).
Unfortunately, this is too little too late. The horse is already out of the barn. The new lines that the Alberta PCs legislated be built in Bill 50 including the Heartland Transmission Project, Western Alberta Transmission Line and Eastern Alberta Transmission Line, have already been rammed through by the government and transmission industry, without any public input or any accounting of the costs. The Heartland line has been under construction since January 2012, and the other 2 are waiting for routing approval by the Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC). The Bill 50 lines have been estimated to cost about $8 billion, but they will likely cost more by the time they are built because they are essentially built on a cost plus basis. The lines will be totally paid for by Alberta electricity consumers, but wholly owned by the transmission companies – AltaLink, EPCOR, ATCO – which are guaranteed annual investment returns of at least 9%.
Critics have blasted the Alberta PC Government for passing Bill 50 in the first place. NDP Leader Brian Mason said repealing Bill 50 now that construction has already begun on the transmission lines still leaves Albertans stuck with 100% of the costs of lines that may not be necessary. Wildrose Utilities Critic Joe Anglin said Bill 50 was wrong and the province should admit it. He said there’s still time to send the projects to the AUC for expert assessment. Keith Wilson, the St. Albert lawyer who is appealing the Heartland line in court on behalf of landowners in Sturgeon County, said Bill 50 was a mistake because it enabled the lines to go ahead without a public cost-benefit analysis.
There has been significant speculation that one of the reasons these Bill 50 lines have been rammed through so quickly is the cozy relationship that exists between the Alberta PC Party and the power transmission industry. See Making Money by Making Friends for more details on this relationship, and see this link for more information on Bill 50.