Critics slam report calling for the construction of additional HVDC lines in Alberta

Critics were quick to condemn the report issued by the four-member Critical Transmission Review Committee (CTRC), which concluded that the proposed East Alberta Transmission Line (EATL) and Western Alberta Transmission Line (WATL) between Edmonton and Calgary are needed and that work on the lines should begin as soon as possible.

“A whitewash” was the term used by Keith Wilson of the Alberta Landowners’ Council.

“If you’re going to have a review, listen to what you’re going to be hearing through that process,” Sheldon Fulton, a former executive director with the Industrial Power Consumers Association of Alberta, told TransmissionHub Feb. 14. He added that the committee appear to have made up their minds and didn’t genuinely consider the testimony presented. “That’s the part that’s most disconcerting about this – that [the committee] didn’t do any of this.”

Fulton said it’s not a question that more transmission is needed in the province; it’s that the EATL and WATL would not bring power to where it’s needed most. He claimed association members with major oil sands projects in the northeast section of the province are running diesel plants because they can’t get transmission out to their projects.

Fulton was also critical of Bill 50, passed under the government of the province’s previous prime minister, Ed Stelmach. Bill 50 declared the EATL, WATL, and Heartland Transmission lines “critical transmission infrastructure,” precluding a needs assessment by the Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC).

“Why don’t they let people make arguments in front of the Commission the way you’re supposed to?” he asked. “Instead of limiting you to one hour in front of a committee that’s not really constituted of the right kind of expertise, do the proper thing and put it in from of the commission [and] let the commission make the decision of whether these lines are needed or not.”

The group Responsible Electricity Transmission for Albertans (RETA) is also opposing the lines. While phone calls seeking comments were not returned by press time, the group’s web site carried a statement criticizing the committee’s decision.

“Unsurprisingly, the panel came out parroting the PC [Progressive Conservative party] lines on the North-South lines about them being needed, even though independent experts such as those at the U of C Public Policy School have found that they are not,” the website stated.

RETA has also disagreed with the process under Bill 50.

“We think it’s better to have a process where you have an independent assessment … rather than having politicians, who realistically don’t have any particular knowledge or expertise about when a line is needed making those determinations,” Garnett Genuis, the group’s executive director, told TransmissionHub in a January interview. “We think the old process, the independent process, was better,” he continued.

Opposition to the CTRC and its decision may not be as widespread as some opponents represent.

The Alberta Landowners’ Council web site listed the Alberta Chambers of Commerce (ACC) as one of “the groups and companies” opposed to the lines, but Ken Kobly, president & CEO of the Chambers, said that is not the case.

“We’ve had one policy on the books concerning transmission lines and power supply in general,” Kobly told TransmissionHub on Feb. 14. “That [policy] advocates for a strong, robust generation and transmission system simply because our members require dependable power.”

The ACC supported a review of critical transmission lines “to ensure that they were, in fact, needed,” Kobly said. However, he added, “The committee has taken a look at [the lines], they’ve called and heard from experts – which we are not – and the recommendation of the expert panel is to continue on with the two lines,” he continued. “We would respect that decision.”