Enmax, TransAlta split on need for $4B new power lines

EDMONTON - - Battle lines were drawn between north and south power producers on the third day of hearings into the need for a proposed $4-billion transmission build between Edmonton and Calgary.

Enmax Corp., the Calgary-owned utility and power generator, argued the dual high-voltage direct-current lines being viewed as critical by the Alberta government would be redundant in the province's new energy landscape.

More megawatts of power are being produced south of Red Deer and fewer in the north, reducing the need for lines that were planned to move electricity to the Calgary region, said Dale McMaster, executive vice-president of transmission and distribution.

"Given what we see in terms of system development, it's unlikely that a transmission system development of that magnitude will be needed for many years," McMaster said Thursday.

Enmax is building an 800-mega-watt natural-gas-fired power plant on the southeastern border of Calgary, expected to come online by 2015. The plant will have a significant impact on the provincial transmission system by reducing north-south flows, McMaster told the four-member panel.

The former chief executive of Alberta Electric System Operator noted nuclear and hydroelectric plants proposed in north-central Alberta have been shelved, and that new coal-fired generation is unlikely due to federal carbon reduction legislation.

He called for sections of Bill 50 on critical transmission be repealed, leaving decisions on need to experts and allowing for public intervention. "An open and transparent process is essential to getting the public back to trusting the institutions that are providing electricity to them," he said.

The panel, commissioned by Premier Alison Redford, is reviewing the need for the HVDC line, and if legislation on critical transmission should be amended. Its report will be submitted to the government Feb. 10.

TransAlta Corp., the province's largest power generator, argued the high cost of a 500-kilovolt line was justified by allowing more power to move across Alberta.

"Our view as we focus on Alberta alone is that the most efficient long-term outcome for consumers is when you have an unconstrained system and you don't have generation building out in zones that can't transfer back and forth," said Will Bridge, executive vice-president of business development.

The bulk of TransAlta's Alberta generation is coal-fired and located around the Wabamun area, west of Edmonton. Investment in new generation likely will be affected if the transmission capacity isn't available, while existing lines would become more congested, both adding to higher electricity costs to consumers, Bridge said.

Of the two lines proposed for the north-south link, TransAlta sup-ported AltaLink's proposed 300-kilometre line from generation west of Edmonton to Strathmore, just east of Calgary. The line would be a shorter and more direct line to Calgary than Atco Ltd.'s 500-km eastern line from the Gibbons and Redwater area northeast of Edmonton to the Brooks area southeast of the city, Bridge said.


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