Premier says Tories to blame for rising power costs
But Notley fails to elaborate on how her government would fix problem
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.”