Wildrose tries to clear air on rising electricity costs

Recently, my office received correspondence with respect to what the actual costs of the above ground HVDC transmission lines being built

Recently, my office received correspondence with respect to what the actual costs of the above ground HVDC transmission lines being built in Alberta are. These lines, as most of you know, have had a significant impact on your monthly power bill.

Wildrose Environment and Utilities critic Joe Anglin has compared the costs of the Heartland transmission line to an underground project that’s currently underway in other North American jurisdictions.

The concern was that Anglin, the Rimbey, Rocky Mountain House, Sundre MLA, had stated that the underground option would have been the lower-cost option. That was, in fact, not the case. He was showing that the Heartland line’s costs are out of line by comparison to a higher cost option of burying the lines.

Anglin is simply making the comparison of the Blackstone Group LP/ Transmission Developers Inc. 65-mile HVDC underground/underwater 500 kV transmission line in New York State versus Alberta’s aerial Heartland transmission line.

The underground Blackstone transmission line is called the Champlain/Hudson transmission line, and it’s estimated to cost $6.84 million CDN per mile, versus the Heartland’s $14.5-million CDN per mile.

The contradiction (or irony) is obvious to all industry experts. In theory, buried lines cost more, so why is the Heartland line almost double the cost of a buried line?

In June 2012, Transmission Facilities Cost Monitoring Committee reported that the cost of the Heartland transmission line has increased from $14.5 Million CDN to $15.5 million CDN per mile.

After meeting with various stakeholders last week, Anglin and Official Opposition Leader Danielle Smith have been told to expect the next Transmission Facilities Cost Monitoring Committee Report for 2013 to show costs will continue to rise.

The Alberta government has refused to address the issue of why those above-ground lines are costing far more than buried lines would cost, even though that defies logic.

A study done by TransCanada has confirmed that Albertans are paying two to three times what it costs to build transmission lines in other jurisdictions.

As the Official Opposition, it’s the responsibility of the Wildrose to question those figures and to draw attention to the outrageous costs Albertans are paying to build those transmission lines. The cost of these lines is reflected in the ever-increasing bills consumers in Alberta are facing.

In past columns, I have addressed the fees and surcharges that account for the lion’s share of the total bottom line you see each and every month.

Those extra charges amount to 70 per cent of your current bill, regardless of your actual usage.

The Wildrose Official Opposition is committed to holding the Alberta government to account for that unnecessary and rising expense.

Those expenses ultimately can be, and have been, the difference between people remaining in their homes and being unable to sustain themselves. It’s time somebody started answering for that.

— From the Legislature

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