Premier says Tories to blame for ris­ing power costs

But Not­ley fails to elab­o­rate on how her gov­ern­ment would fix prob­lem

Edmonton Journal - - FRONT PAGE - DARCY HENTON With files from James Wood dhen­ton@post­media.com

Al­ber­tans can blame the pre­vi­ous Tory gov­ern­ment for in­creased trans­mis­sion costs on their power bills, says the premier.

Rachel Not­ley pointed the fin­ger at Ed Stel­mach’s Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tive gov­ern­ment for over­build­ing Al­berta’s power grid, but didn’t ex­plain how her NDP gov­ern­ment plans to ad­dress the prob­lem.

She said the PC gov­ern­ment knew its process of ap­prov­ing trans­mis­sion in­fra­struc­ture “was go­ing to sig­nif­i­cantly in­crease costs for con­sumers,” so the fact that’s now hap­pen­ing is pre­dictable.

“That will have an im­pact on con­sumers’ bills, but peo­ple need to un­der­stand that was a very de­fin­i­tive de­ci­sion made by the pre­vi­ous Con­ser­va­tive gov­ern­ment, know­ing full well at the time what the im­pact was, be­cause we de­bated it at lengths in the leg­is­la­ture,” she told re­porters last week.

Not­ley noted the NDP fought against a de­ci­sion by the PC gov­ern­ment to give cab­i­net the power to ap­prove crit­i­cal in­fra­struc­ture projects with­out pub­lic hear­ings to de­ter­mine whether they were needed.

A coali­tion of con­sumer groups has warned “un­prece­dented” in­creases in trans­mis­sion costs are un­sus­tain­able, and an en­ergy con­sul­tant has called for a com- pre­hen­sive re­view of elec­tric­ity trans­mis­sion.

Not­ley didn’t say what the NDP is go­ing to do about the situation and the en­ergy min­istry didn’t pro­vide any an­swers when asked Fri­day.

“While it is cru­cial we have a re­li­able elec­tric­ity grid that keeps pace with a grow­ing prov­ince, the pre­vi­ous gov­ern­ment was not clear with Al­ber­tans about what the costs would be and who would pay for their de­ci­sions,” En­ergy Min­is­ter Marg McCuaig-Boyd said in a state­ment. “Con­sumers are now see­ing some of these costs on their bills and right­fully ask­ing ques­tions.”

She said the gov­ern­ment is fo­cused on de­vel­op­ing a clean en­ergy grid. “Our pri­or­ity with the elec­tric­ity sys­tem right now is to im­ple­ment the Cli­mate Lead­er­ship Plan,” she said.

Op­po­si­tion crit­ics at­tacked the gov­ern­ment for point­ing fin­gers rather than ad­dress­ing the prob­lem. Wil­drose elec­tric­ity critic Don MacIntyre said it’s time for the NDP gov­ern­ment to “cow­boy up and own it.”

“Take re­spon­si­bil­ity for the good and bad, and clean things up,” he said.

Al­berta Party Leader Greg Clark called the premier’s move to blame the pre­vi­ous gov­ern­ment “a copout.”

“It’s time to take some re­spon­si­bil­ity and find some so­lu­tions.”

PC critic Rick Fraser said the premier is “in­cor­rect” in ac­cus­ing the for­mer Tory gov­ern­ment of a trans­mis­sion over­build.

He sug­gested the prov­ince will need a bol­stered grid to meet its goal of get­ting 30 per cent of its elec­tri­cal power from re­new­able en­ergy. “You are go­ing to need these trans­mis­sion lines for the re­new­able en­ergy,” he said.

En­ergy con­sul­tant Shel­don Ful­ton com­plained in a let­ter to McCuaig-Boyd that the PC trans­mis­sion pol­icy will drive up grid in­fra­struc­ture spend­ing to $20 bil­lion by 2020 — up from just $2.1 bil­lion in 2008. Con­sumers who paid $10 a month for trans­mis­sion in 2008 will be pay­ing more than $50 a month by 2020, he claimed.

Ful­ton said there is a lack of cost ac­count­abil­ity by the Al­berta Elec­tric Sys­tem Op­er­a­tor, which plans and op­er­ates the elec­tric­ity grid, and the Al­berta Util­i­ties Com­mis­sion, which ap­proves the costs.

“Con­sumers that pay trans­mis­sion costs have no say in where the trans­mis­sion is built, why it is built, how big it will be,” he wrote.

He said AESO pushed for a sig­nif­i­cant in­crease in in­fra­struc­ture in 2008 based on “ex­ag­ger­ated con­cern for sys­tem re­li­a­bil­ity,” with warn­ings of po­ten­tial rolling brownouts if the lines weren’t built. “The re­sult is an over-built, un­der­uti­lized trans­mis­sion sys­tem,” Ful­ton said in the let­ter. “In some in­stances, dou­ble lines ex­ist for projects that are no longer vi­able.”

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