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Alberta consumers to feel pinch as power line bill passes

Consumers will ultimately feel a jolt on their power bills after the Stelmach government passed Wednesday its controversial Bill 50 on electricity transmission -- legislation political opponents, landowners and utility company Enmax insist Albertans will live to regret. After months of heated debate over the need for billions in new power lines--a fight that ensnared consumers, politicians and power companies -- the majority Tory government ensured easy passage in the legislature of Bill 50, the Electric Statutes Amendment Act.

'Unnecessary' legislation draws fire

Consumers will ultimately feel a jolt on their power bills after the Stelmach government passed Wednesday its controversial Bill 50 on electricity transmission -- legislation political opponents, landowners and utility company Enmax insist Albertans will live to regret.

After months of heated debate over the need for billions in new power lines--a fight that ensnared consumers, politicians and power companies -- the majority Tory government ensured easy passage in the legislature of Bill 50, the Electric Statutes Amendment Act.

Designed to expedite construction of "critical" new power line transmission, the legislation will eliminate the legal requirement for public hearings on the need for transmission lines. It will also fast-track five electricity transmission projects worth $8.1-billion that will add nearly $100 a year to people's power bills.

All told, additional transmission upgrades in the queue, totalling $14.5 billion over the next eight years, will see Albertans pay triple the cost to bring power to their homes --about $175 more a year on their electricity bills.

"It's a very contentious... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

'Unnecessary' legislation draws fire

Consumers will ultimately feel a jolt on their power bills after the Stelmach government passed Wednesday its controversial Bill 50 on electricity transmission -- legislation political opponents, landowners and utility company Enmax insist Albertans will live to regret.

After months of heated debate over the need for billions in new power lines--a fight that ensnared consumers, politicians and power companies -- the majority Tory government ensured easy passage in the legislature of Bill 50, the Electric Statutes Amendment Act.

Designed to expedite construction of "critical" new power line transmission, the legislation will eliminate the legal requirement for public hearings on the need for transmission lines. It will also fast-track five electricity transmission projects worth $8.1-billion that will add nearly $100 a year to people's power bills.

All told, additional transmission upgrades in the queue, totalling $14.5 billion over the next eight years, will see Albertans pay triple the cost to bring power to their homes --about $175 more a year on their electricity bills.

"It's a very contentious issue, a tremendous amount of money involved in it--nobody argues that," Energy Minister Mel Knight said moments after the bill passed third and final reading. It's expected to receive royal assent today. "At the end of the day there needs to be a decision made, and this government made a determination that transmission must go forward for the benefit of all Albertans in the future."

Knight wouldn't say when the power line projects--including two between Calgary and Edmonton and integration of more wind energy from southern Alberta--will start construction. However, it will likely be a few years before Albertans will see the construction costs trickle down to their power bills.

The government has faced unrelenting criticism on the bill from landowners, opposition parties and even Calgaryowned utility Enmax, who believe it strips the public of due process and rams through exorbitant and unnecessary power lines.

"It's a sad day. I think people are going to be reminded of this every month when they get legislation their power bill," charged NDP Leader Brian Mason. "This is draws fire going to haunt the Progressive Conservative government of Alberta because this was completely unnecessary and very, very expensive."

The Alberta Electric System Operator has been working on plans for eight years to build the Calgary-Edmonton lines to alleviate the risk of brownout or blackouts in southern and central Alberta. But the process ground to a halt when private detectives hired by the provincial regulator of the day were caught spying on landowners.

Joe Anglin, the landowners' rights advocate who exposed the spying scandal, said the legacy of Bill 50 will be palpable to consumers every month on their utility bill.

"In the end, we pay," Anglin said. "We're going to fight this. We're going to have our say in the voter's booth."

Knight maintained there will continue to be "full, complete, open, transparent public hearings relative to the issue," which will determine the construction time-frame, final cost and location of the projects.

The new legislation will allow cabinet to decide what are necessary transmission projects, stripping the power from the Alberta Utilities Commission, a quasi-judicial independent agency that will still determine the location of future power lines.

Critics of the bill insist an independent assessment is necessary to determine the need for new lines-rather than allowing cabinet to approve projects.

"This is all about hastening the process and subverting the public process," said Liberal Leader David Swann. "It's also going to, I think, add more fuel to the loss of trust in this government and it's going to send the largest utility bill in our history to consumers."

Wildrose Alliance Calgary MLA Paul Hinman said the government's planned projects are an overbuild that's overpriced and "not in the benefit of the Alberta Advantage."

But Leigh Clarke, a senior vice-president with Calgarybased AltaLink, which has been selected to build one of the two power lines between the Calgary and Edmonton areas, said Alberta's power system is outdated and that new, efficient transmission is desperately needed.

"We've got a 21st-century economy running on a 20th-century electricity transmission system."


Source: http://www.calgaryherald.co...

NOV 27 2009
https://www.windaction.org/posts/23318-alberta-consumers-to-feel-pinch-as-power-line-bill-passes
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