Longer eastern Alberta line could be built first – energy minister

Alberta Energy Minister Ted Morton said on March 9 that it is possible the Eastern Alberta Transmission Line (EATL) would be the first of two large power lines to be built, even though it is longer than the Western Alberta Transmission Line (WATL).

Morton cited the possibility of less landowner concern and fewer protests over routing for the EATL in comments made March 9.

However, while the need has been established and reaffirmed, a spokesperson with Morton’s office told TransmissionHub on March 13 that any predictions about which would be built first is “just the Minister’s opinion.”

After holding public hearings, the Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC) will determine the lines’ routes, a spokesperson for the AUC told TransmissionHub. Hearings to discuss the route for the WATL will begin June 11, while the route for the EATL will be discussed starting July 23.

While the specific alignments have yet to be determined, the WATL will run approximately 347 km (215 mi) south from west of Edmonton to a point near Calgary. The eastern line will run approximately 487 km (302 mi) from Redwater to Brooks. Morton has said it is critical that one of the lines be completed by 2015 or 2016, though there is no way of knowing now which one of those it will be.

Need for the two lines was established by the provincial government under Bill 50, which declared both lines part of the province’s critical transmission infrastructure. The Critical Transmission Review Committee (CRTC), a panel appointed to revisit the decision approving the lines, reaffirmed the need for them in February after a series of public hearings.

While critics called the CRTC’s decision “a whitewash” and charged the C$4bn (US$4.03bn) HVDC lines were overkill and too costly, Morton’s spokesperson said the minister’s office does not intend to become involved in the routing process.