Making Sense of Energy

New Electrical Infrastructure will Cost Albertans

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The average Albertan can expect to see their regulated costs for delivery of their electricity nearly double over the next ten years. This spike will be caused by over $13-billion being spent to build new transmission infrastructure. About $3.5 billion will be spent building two north-south direct current lines and another $3 billion for two lines from Fort McMurray to Edmonton and Genesee, according to an article that ran in the Edmonton Journal.

A spokesperson from the Alberta System Operator (AESO) stated that this new electrical infrastructure is needed to keep up with the constantly growing demand for electricity in North America. However, many are opposed to this plan and are worried that the cost to consumers will be too great. Critics fear this large-scale transmission infrastructure is being built too fast and is way more than is actually required right now.

Jim Wachowich of the Alberta Consumers Coalition told the Edmonton Journal that he was concerned about the billions of dollars being spent all at the expense of consumers.

AESO forecasts the cost for the average residential consumer increasing from about $19 to $33 per month. Wachowich believes that increase, in a worst case scenario, could become as much as a $20 increase per month. That’s an extra $240 per year that is unavoidable by Albertans. These costs will be a massive burden, especially to those on low or fixed incomes.

“Thank the provincial government who passed Bill 50, giving them the right to decide without public hearings or considering other options as to what needs to be built and when,” commented Chris Vilcsak, President and CEO of Solution 105.

It is also feared that big industrial and commercial companies will decide to move off the grid to avoid these growing costs, either making their own power or moving out of Alberta. This could triple or quadruple the bill to be paid by regular residential consumers.

“Instead of spending $13 billion so we can move more power around, why not spend it on making companies and homes more energy efficient so we don’t actually have to move as much power?” asks Vilcsak.

“Why not? Because that doesn’t help the transmission companies like Fortis/TransAlta, Atco, EPCOR, or Enmax. It doesn’t help the oilsands developers either, who I believe were promised huge lines, paid for by consumers in the province, so that they could export excess power to the US,” said Vilcsak.

NDP electricity critic Brian Mason also suspects that the massive transmission projects “may be in fact intended in the future for export of electricity to the United States.” He was quoted in the Edmonton Journal article giving his opinion that “it is hardly fair for the average homeowner to have a very, very large increase on their bills in order to pay for this.”

Some believe that AESO is responsibly responding to the growth of Alberta and the true need for this size of infrastructure.

What do you think?