New bill transitions project reviews, approvals to Alberta Utility Commission

All future transmission line projects in Alberta will require review and approval by the Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC) under a new bill introduced on Oct. 23 by the provincial government.

Bill 8, the Electric Utilities Amendment Act 2012, is based on input from Alberta residents and is a direct response to recommendations in a report from the Critical Transmission Review Committee released in February. In essence, it would repeal Bill 50 passed in 2009 under the previous premier Ed Stelmach. Bill 50 gave the provincial legislature the authority to declare dertain projects “critical transmission infrastructure” (CTI).

“We’ve listened to Albertans and we have responded,” Minister of Energy Ken Hughes said in a statement. “This amendment ensures that Albertans have an opportunity to share their perspectives on the need for transmission infrastructure, and that decisions about the construction of future transmission lines will be made by an independent agency.”

The bill will return the responsibility for needs assessments for all future projects to the AUC.

Four projects approved under the Electric Statutes Amendment Act (ESAA) 2009 will continue under their current schedules, Alberta’s energy department said. All new projects will be subject to the AUC needs-assessment process, which provides the opportunity for public participation.

“Alberta needs strong transmission as our province continues to grow,” Hughes said. “Allowing the electricity regulator to determine need will give confidence to Albertans that projects moving forward will help power our homes and communities.”

Projects approved under Bill 50 include the Heartland transmission line, the Eastern Alberta Transmission Line (EATL), the Western Alberta Transmission Line (WATL), the Edmonton-to-Fort McMurray transmission lines, and a Calgary substation.

This story was updated Oct. 25 to further clarify that Bill 8, if approved, would repeal Bill 50.