The Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC), funded by the Alberta electricity transmission industry, approved the sale of AltaLink by scandal-plagued SNC-Lavalin to U.S.-based Berkshire Hathaway Energy, owned by billionaire Warren Buffett (Edmonton Journal). The sale price has been estimated at $3.2 billion, and the deal was approved yesterday.
Many Albertans (including politicians), businesses and corporations have warned that the sale of AltaLink to an American corporation may result in: loss of control over regulation and operation of AltaLink; loss of control over our transmission infrastructure; export of more electricity to the power-hungry U.S.; and most importantly, increases in costs of already-expensive electricity transmission to Albertans. These warnings are particularly important considering AltaLink delivers electricity to the vast majority of Alberta’s population – about 85%. Also, there have been questions about how the extremely high price tag of the sale will be passed on to Alberta ratepayers.
What has many Albertans, businesses and industry concerned about the export of more electricity to the U.S. is that Albertans pay 100% of the transmission infrastructure costs in Alberta, while the transmission companies reap the financial benefits. Although the transmission industry, the AUC, the Alberta Electric System Operator (AESO), and the Alberta Government have promised that none of the new transmission infrastructure being built is for export, it is well known that the same four players have been working closely together for over 10 years in an attempt to make Alberta a leading exporter of electricity. This is one of the main reasons so many Albertans, including businesses and large industries, have argued against the out-of-control increase in transmission infrastructure construction in our province.
The export plan was the primary trigger for the flurry of legislation passed in 2008 and 2009 by the Alberta Government to streamline construction of new electricity transmission infrastructure, limit private property rights, and eliminate the requirement for Environmental Impact Assessments for high voltage power line construction (e.g., Land Assembly Project Area Act, Electric Statutes Amendment Act).
Although there has been significant opposition in Alberta to the sale of AltaLink to a foreign corporation, it is not surprising that the non-independent AUC approved the sale, considering the electricity transmission industry funds the AUC, and AltaLink is by far the largest and most influential transmission corporation in Alberta.
Now that AltaLink is owned by a U.S. energy giant, Albertans certainly need to worry that the vast majority of the recently-constructed transmission infrastructure will be used to export our electricity to the U.S. – at Alberta ratepayers’ expense.