Controversial Alberta power lines to proceed
Government accepts committee recommendations and says it will mitigate costs
The Alberta government says two new transmission lines between Edmonton and Calgary will be built, but the construction costs will not fall solely on the shoulders of current users.
"Our decision to proceed with strengthening the backbone of the transmission grid will ensure we can power our economy for the foreseeable future," said Energy Minister Ted Morton in a release Thursday.
He said the province will be accepting all of the recommendations of the Critical Transmission Review Committee.
The government said provincial demand for power is forecasted to nearly double over the next 20 years.
"This is not about what's best for Alberta for the next four years, but rather what's best for the next four decades. As such, we will ensure the costs for these projects are shared equitably between today's consumers and future generations," said Morton.
The Critical Transmission Review Committee was appointed last fall by Premier Alison Redford.
Committee members held public hearings in Edmonton and Calgary in January on the need for two projects: AltaLink's Western Alberta Transmission Line and the Eastern Alberta Transmission Line proposed by ATCO Electric.
The cost impact of the two lines on consumers will also be examined by the Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC). Current estimates of the cost of developing the lines are $3 a month for residential consumers and $3.75 per megawatt hour for industrial consumers.
The government said reinforcing Alberta's transmission system will spark new investment in electrical generation plants, which it believes will lead to increased competition and put downward pressure on the cost of electricity.
Keith Wilson, the lawyer for the Alberta Landowners Council, a group that has been battling the new lines, called the report a whitewash.
"The major industry groups, the major companies that employ Albertans, that build projects, that need electricity, have looked at this and said it's a massive overbuild," he said.
Government to review electricity rates
The Alberta government is also looking at ways to reduce the cost of rising power bills.
Premier Redford says an independent panel will review monthly fees for users who are not on fixed contracts.
Her government is asking the AUC to freeze extra administration and transmission costs on power bills while the review is underway.
Redford is also directing her government to amend the rules around fixed rate contracts to make it easier for more consumers to purchase them.
The New Democrats have been lobbying for change, saying some bills have doubled since this time last year.
Leader Brian Mason says Redford's announcement shows the government has "blinked" on the matter, but adds the power system is still fundamentally flawed.