Premier Rachel Notley is blaming the former PC government for overbuilding Alberta’s electricity grid, resulting in Albertans paying (soon to be) the highest transmission rates in North America.
The Premier is absolutely correct in pointing the finger at the PC government which, in 2009, passed the Electric Statutes Amendment Act (Bill 50) against the wishes of almost everyone in Alberta except the electricity transmission industry, operator and regulator. The Act ordered the building of huge 500kV high voltage transmission lines across the province, including the Heartland Transmission Project (AltaLink), Western Alberta Transmission Line (AltaLink), Eastern Alberta Transmission Line (ATCO), Fort McMurray West Transmission Project (ATCO), and several others. Under heavy lobbying by the transmission industry and the Alberta Electric System Operator (AESO), the PC government legislated the building of these lines by unilaterally labelling them as “critical infrastructure” that would be built without any opportunity for the public, business community, industry or municipalities to question the need for them.
The Alberta NDP, Liberals and Wildrose fought strongly against Bill 50, as the province saw some of the largest public demonstrations ever in opposition to the building of these massive lines, but the PC government went ahead and rammed the legislation through the Legislative Assembly. There was no justifiable need, no fair competitive bidding, nor was there any accountability, for construction of the Bill 50 lines. It was well known and understood at that time that construction of these unnecessary lines would contribute to significant increases in transmission costs; unfortunately, that did not stop the legislation from being passed. It should be no surprise to anyone today, therefore, that Alberta transmission costs are going through the roof.
Sheldon Fulton, energy consultant, wrote in a letter to current Energy Minister Marg McCuaig-Boyd, “Consumers that pay transmission costs have no say in where the transmission line is built, why it is built, how big it will be. The result is an over-built, underutilized transmission system. In some instances, double lines exist for projects that are no longer viable.” For example, the Heartland Transmission Project was supposed to provide coal-fired electricity for up to 13 oil sands upgrading facilities in the Industrial Heartland. Currently there is one upgrader under construction that has a questionable chance of success. The irony is, even if upgraders were built in the Industrial Heartland they were to co-generate their own electricity and would therefore not have required power from elsewhere. Furthermore, because coal-fired electricity generation will gradually be phased out in Alberta (as is the case in the rest of Canada), it is not known whether there will be any generation to actually feed the Heartland line. In other words, the Heartland transmission line will very likely become known as the line from nowhere to nowhere.
In summary, all those who opposed construction of the Bill 50 mega-high voltage transmission lines because they were not needed and because they would be too costly, can now say, “I told you so.”
See this link for many additional RETA blogs on high electricity costs in Alberta.