In response to the recent article published in the Strathmore Standard Newspaper, “Doubling up to meet the demand” by Jessica Burtnick, AltaLink’s assertions are misleading, inaccurate and extremely biased. (July 2012)
All the independent analysts agree: the AltaLink proposal to build a high voltage direct current (HVDC) transmission lines in Alberta is unnecessary, unwarranted and obscenely expensive. In summary there is no credible or reliable proof that can pass examination in support of building AltaLink’s HVDC transmission line from Genesee to Langdon. AltaLink has consistently opposed all efforts to require proof that the line is needed.
Eight significant facts that were omitted from the article are:
1. Transmission lines do not produce electricity; transmission lines only transfer electricity from point “A” to point “B”. In AltaLink’s case there is no need to transfer more electricity from Genesee (Edmonton) to Langdon (Calgary). In fact the actual transfer of electricity from Genesee to Langdon has decreased significantly over the last three years, rendering the existing lines underutilized. A new transmission line is just not warranted.
2. Claims that there have been no significant upgrades to Alberta’s electricity system since 1982 are false. The Alberta Electric System Operator (AESO) published in 2010, a list of nine major upgrades to the electricity system that were completed in 2010. AltaLink also failed to mention in the article that a transmission line can last up to, and beyond, 100 years.
3. Claims that Alberta’s electricity system is losing an excessive amount of electricity, is just not true! A typical transmission system loses between 5% and 7% of its electricity. Alberta’s transmission system loses less than 5% of its electricity and at no time in the last decade has Alberta’s average annual total loss exceeded 5%. Loss of electricity is a matter of physics and is inevitable. Alberta’s electricity system is working better than most!
4. Retail consumers do not drive demand for electricity in Alberta. Industrial demand is the overwhelming driving factor in the determination of how much electricity is required and consumed. The majority of Alberta’s industry that consumes electricity is located northeast of Edmonton ~ they are not located south of Edmonton! The Industrial Power Consumers Association of Alberta (IPCAA) wrote the government stating the AltaLink transmission line was not needed and it would lead to job losses, as a result of increased transmission costs! In summary, the organization that has the most at stake to keep the lights on, and consumes the bulk of the electricity in the province, says they don’t need the line!
5. The pending completion of the Sheppard (natural gas) generating station east of Calgary could theoretically eliminate any need to transfer electricity from Genesee to Langdon altogether. The Sheppard Plant is currently ahead of schedule and under budget. In contrast all the proposed transmission lines have either doubled in cost, or are expected to double in cost.
6. A November 2009 University of Calgary’s Department of Engineering, and Department of Economics’ study found that the AltaLink HVDC transmission line was inefficient and uneconomic.
7. The Utility Consumer Advocate, (a government funded organization), whose job it is to represent consumers, commissioned a study that found that the data relied upon to approve and build an AltaLink HVDC transmission line was biased and misleading. The report recommended that the Utility Consumer Advocate should argue against the approval and construction of the AltaLink HVDC transmission line.
8. On July 11, 2012, one of the original authors and contributors, (Mr. T. Cline), to every document this Alberta Government has relied upon to approve AltaLink’s HVDC transmission line, testified under oath that the AltaLink HVDC transmission line was not in the public interest.
AltaLink is a monopoly that owns and builds electricity transmission lines for Alberta’s electricity transmission system. The public pays for the transmission lines, but AltaLink gets to own the line! AltaLink also gets a guaranteed income of 9% +/- for its return on equity. The more AltaLink spends building a transmission line, the more money AltaLink makes. Unfortunately, the more it cost consumers. There are no incentives for AltaLink to keep costs down.
Now that the AltaLink hearing has ended, AltaLink is assured that the Commission will approve their line. This is because the current legislation states, “The Commission shall not refuse an approval of a transmission line”.
Knowing the approval is guaranteed, AltaLink has awarded a no bid contract to the company SNC-Lavalin to engineer and construct the HVDC transmission line. AltaLink will technically supervise and monitor SNC-Lavalin to make sure they don’t over-spend. Unfortunately for the public, SNC-Lavalin owns 100% of AltaLink. The government has appointed a cost monitoring committee, unfortunately the committee has no authority to delay a project and they have no right to AltaLink’s financial information.
The Government of Alberta has eliminated the time-tested, and proven, approval process that requires an independent regulatory board to approve transmission lines, based on the public interest. In effect the Alberta Government has politicized the approval of transmission lines. This change of policy would be comical if the consequences were not so disastrous.
Tens of billions of dollars are at risk of being misspent if we do not return to a process that requires proof that a transmission line is truly needed. Albertans cannot afford to waste billions arbitrarily. If this government does not reverse its position soon, the federal sponsorship scandal will look like a dime store theft in comparison to the Alberta electricity system debacle!