ATCO Electric Gets Earful from Angry Landowners
The Bonnyville Nouvelle reports on an emotional public meeting recently held in St. Paul, Alberta to discuss a new proposed high voltage power line. ATCO Electric had hoped to discuss the routing of a proposed 35-kilometre-long 144 kilovolt double-circuit line that would start at St. Paul’s existing substation; however, people who attended the meeting turned it into a discussion on the need for the line.
About 40 landowners attended and expressed concerns about the impact of the line on their land, farming operations, recreational areas and human health. Shayne Saskiw, local Wildrose MLA for Lac La Biche-St. Paul-Two Hills, attended the meeting as well, as did Wildrose Environment & Utilities Critic, Joe Anglin. Anglin said ATCO shouldn’t even be at the meeting talking about the line because the AESO (Alberta Electric System Operator) hadn’t yet made a good case for the need for the line, nor had the AUC (Alberta Utilities Commission) approved the line yet. He asserted that the AESO wasn’t set up to help landowners, but instead was set up to help the power industry get more high voltage lines built. This has been a recurring complaint about the AESO, where many staff are past employees of transmission companies.
At the meeting, an ATCO representative said ATCO didn’t determine the need for the line – rather the AESO did. In Alberta, we are led to believe that Alberta Energy (Alberta Government), the AESO, the AUC and the transmission industry are separate entities and are independent of one another. The fact is, these 4 entities work very closely together, and as several AUC hearings have revealed, it is impossible to tell who is directing who. The electricity transmission industry, the operator (AESO), the regulator (AUC) and Alberta Energy are essentially one and the same. This does not bode well for the electricity consumer because this cozy relationship has resulted in unnecessary lines being built in some cases, massive overbuilds in other cases, lack of accounting, and one of the highest electricity transmission prices in Canada.
Several examples were provided at the meeting of overbuilds by industry, including industry’s reluctance to upgrade existing high voltage lines to higher capacities, preferring instead to keep building more new lines because with each new line, companies’ revenues go up. It is important to note that Alberta electricity consumers pay 100% of the cost for new transmission lines while transmission companies own the lines and make guaranteed annual returns of at least 9% on these assets. Consumers take all the risk – industry gets all the benefits.
The meeting in St. Paul ended with a commitment by Saskiw and one of the meeting organizers to collect the names of all those opposing the proposed line.