Hydro bills could triple, Heartland opponents say

Anti-Heartland Transmission Project activist Joe Anglin holds up a copy of a needs identifications document during a talk at the Morinville Parish Hall Nov. 4.
By Stephen Dafoe

Morinville – Approximately 150 area residents heard a disturbing message last Thursday night: the proposed Heartland Transmission Project (HTP) is part of an overall plan that could see Albertans’ hydro bills doubling or even tripling each month. That was the message of Joe Anglin, one of two speakers invited to Morinville by the Sturgeon Blue Line Group, an anti-transmission line advocacy group.

Anglin, a councillor in Rimbey and former leader of the Alberta Green Party, gained media attention a few years ago after accusing the Energy and Utilities Board of spying on those opposed to power line projects running through their land.

The municipal politician and anti-power line speaker told his listeners that the controversial power line project affected not only those whose land the power lines might run, but all Albertans who would be left to shoulder the costs of the province’s overall electrical infrastructure projects, which Anglin believes will be in the $16 billion range. The Heartland Transmission Project was estimated at $280 million but critics, including Anglin, claim the price tag has already escalated to approximately $580 million.

Anglin said Albertans are being sold a bill of goods by the Alberta Electrical System Operator (AESO) when they are told the province needs to increase its power line capacity to prepare for upgraders and because no major upgrades have occurred in the past two decades.

“The average lifespan of a transmission line is 80 years,” Anglin said. “They know this. I know this. I can extend that to 100 years on any given line. No problem. We’re talking about transmitting basic electricity at 60 cycles per second. It’s not rocket science. This stuff will last a long time. All you’ve got to do is maintain it.”

Anglin said another argument he has been able to deflate with Altalink’s data is the belief that Alberta does not have enough electricity to meet its needs.

“What they’re saying is while generation capacity has risen by 38 per cent, demand has only risen by 21 per cent,” he said. “Well, that tells us we’re doing pretty good. That means we not just have enough electricity – we have more than enough electricity.”

Anglin believes the real motivation behind building the power lines is to export electricity to California, something he believes Albertans will pay for in increased hydro bills and lost jobs when companies move out of province.

Anglin said the Canada / Northwest California Transmission Option, co-published by AESO, looks at exporting Alberta’s electricity.

“It’s all about how we get power from Northern Alberta to Southern California,” Anglin said. “But you’re told this is not for export. The interesting thing about this is when industry looked at this as an emerging opportunity – they looked at lines for export. They went back to the government and they said it was uneconomical. So the government changed the rules so that we were paying for it. Now for industry it’s economical.”

Anglin said AESO’s 10-year plan shows that the total cost of upgrading the province’s power lines will be $16.6 billion when the critical infrastructure and long-term plan components are combined.

“What this government is proposing is a $16.6 billion investment,” Anglin said. “That is eight times the current value of the system. Eight times what you are paying right now.”

The anti-power line advocate explained the transmission charge portion of consumer hydro bills is based on $2 billion in electrical system infrastructure. The addition of $16 billion worth of new infrastructure would create an increase in the transmission charge that was eight times current rates.

Anglin used an $80 per month hydro bill as an example. Of that amount, $10 was the transmission charge. An eight-fold increase in the transmission charge would have the effect of doubling the bill.

The situation for commercial and industrial clients would be worse, Anglin said, because while residences shoulder 16 per cent of the infrastructure burden, commercial and industrial clients carry 19 per cent and 61 per cent, respectively.

Anglin said he believes the increase in electrical prices for commerce and industry will lead to job major losses in the province.

“This isn’t about a line, people, crossing your property – this is about our basic economy of do we want a thriving economy or do we want an economy that is faltered, where industry is leaving,” he said.

Editor’s note: AESO has requested an opportunity to refute claims beign made by its critics. That article will be published later this week.

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