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Alberta needs a new transmission line ‘and did not disappear’

16 October 2009 1,159 views No Comment

It’s enough to make anyone’s head spin.

But if you peel away the layers of confusion, one thing is clear: Alberta needs to upgrade its transmission system or risk jeopardizing its economic growth, says the CEO of the Alberta Electric System Operator.

“Regardless of the process that’s outlined in the law — be it Bill 50 or any other law — the need doesn’t go away,” David Erickson said yesterday in an interview with the Calgary Sun’s editorial board.

“It needs to be there, because that’s really what’s going to make Alberta continue to grow and prosper in the future.”

Alberta currently generates 12,500 megawatts but will need to add another 5,000 megawatts over the next 10 years, says an AESO estimate.

Plans to upgrade and expand Alberta’s aging transmission grid have existed for about a decade.

The introduction of Bill 50, however, which would allow the government to approve “critical transmission infrastructure projects” without public hearings, has increasingly politicized the debate. Also, Enmax Corp. has come out against the transmission lines, saying “large transmission lines may not be the best choice.”

Toss in seemingly conflicting numbers about the cost of the project — the government says $8 billion, while Enmax says $14 billion — and you have what Erickson calls a “very complex problem.”

The $8 billion figure cited by the government includes “critical transmission infrastructure,” such as the major power lines between Calgary and Edmonton. The $14 billion figure Enmax uses includes additional infrastructure, such as connecting future power facilities in northwestern and northeastern Alberta.

MARKUS.ERMISCH@SUNMEDIA.CA

By MARKUS ERMISCH, SUN MEDIA

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