After years of applications and consultation, the Alberta Utilities Commission has approved the route of a new transmission line to carry electricity from north of Edmonton to Brooks.

The new line is supposed to add additional capacity to Alberta's existing electricity transmission system.

ATCO Electric will construct the massive power line that stretches 500 kilometres, with an expected price tag of $1.6 billion.

Ray Boven, ATCO's vice president of the capital projects division, says the project is needed as energy consumption continually expands.

"The needs of the Albertans are growing with respect to electrical demand and the need for reinforced transmission systems continues to grow as the province grows," he said.

But not everyone supports the project. Wildrose MLA Joe Anglin calls it illogical.

"It's a multi-billion-dollar mess, and is a cost Albertans should never have to bear," said Anglin. "So what we should do is suspend this line and rethink what is practical and pragmatic and economical to meet the future needs of Albertans."

Construction could begin within a month

Anglin says the cost is too high and he doesn't know why a transmission line would end near Brooks.

"You might as well build an aircraft carrier in Alberta and let it sit on the Prairies," he said. "I mean, the line is of no use unless you connect it to something." 

Boven says the company submitted a preferred route for the line and some alternative paths.

In the end, the province's regulator approved a combination of the different options after considering landowner feedback and environmental concerns.

"We had examined those alternative route segments and they are quite buildable and we were fully prepared, as we indicated to the commission, when we applied for them to build on the alternate route segments if the commission deemed the alternate routes to be again slightly superior to the preferred route," said Boven.

The cost of the project will be shared by electricity consumers.

Construction could begin within a month and is expected to wrap up by the end of 2014.

With files from The Canadian Press