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Experts question Alberta power threats to B.C. as pipeline politics intensify

Electricity experts are questioning the effectiveness of Alberta's promise to suspend power purchase talks with British Columbia as a way to sway the West Coast province on pipeline development.

Expert predicts electricity rates would increase in Alberta if supply options were cut

Premier Rachel Notley, left, announced Thursday she would suspend talks with Premier John Horgan's British Columbia government on buying electricity on existing transmission lines, which could cost B.C. Hydro roughly $500 million. (Left: Richard Marion/CBC Radio-Canada, Right: The Canadian Press/Darryl Dyck)

Electricity experts are questioning the effectiveness of Alberta's promise to suspend power purchase talks with British Columbia as a way to sway the West Coast province on pipeline development.

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley made the commitment Thursday in protest to B.C.'s announcement that it would at least temporarily restrict increases in diluted bitumen shipments, creating more uncertainty for Kinder Morgan Inc.'s delayed Trans Mountain expansion project.

Blake Shaffer, a fellow with the C.D. Howe Institute, says the estimated potential impact of up to $500 million a year seems quite high, and that BC Hydro could potentially export the power to the U.S. if Alberta wasn't buying.

He says Alberta consumers would also likely see rates increase if the supply options were reduced, though he doesn't expect there would be any power shortages in the province.

David Gray at Gray Energy Economics Inc. says the amount of electricity in question is relatively minor, but that the dispute is unfortunate because both provinces would benefit from co-operation on electricity production.

Premier Notley has called B.C.'s move to restrict increases in bitumen shipments as unconstitutional and has called on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to act decisively to end the dispute.

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