Big charges should mean stable power

EDMONTON, ALBERTA - Have you checked your EPCOR power bill lately? Do you think you pay enough for electricity?

You better believe we do - some of the highest rates in Canada. That's why news on the electricity front is so disconcerting.

This week more than a few Edmontonians suffered through a handful of blackouts.

An EPCOR spokesman blamed that on worn cables, saying there were no major issues with transmission lines that carry power from generators to the city.

However, only a month ago, EPCOR president Don Lowry told a Calgary business audience that soaring demand for electrical energy coupled with a lack of new transmission lines could create "catastrophic failures" that would shut down the juice to homes, schools and hospitals.

Those are blackouts. And Lowry says to expect more. "We've dodged four or five bullets. We've been lucky on this, but as you continue to plug things in... you run the risk."

Lowry noted the province's power reserve has gone from 22.5% in 2003 to a projected level of 7% this year.

EPCOR wants a new 500-kilovolt north-south transmission line. After extensive public consultation, that application isn't due to go to the Alberta Utilities Commission until the end of this year.

Customers, of course, just want to be assured they're not going to be suffering through blackouts. That's not too much to ask considering the hefty monthly charges we pay.

For their part, Opposition Liberals reckon our electrical woes all stem from the provincial Tories making a huge blunder by deregulating power in 2001.

Said Opposition critic Hugh MacDonald: "We never used to have these mini-blackouts before we had deregulation, and now that we have a deregulated system and have so many rules that are changed, no one is willing to invest a lot of money."

No matter how we got here, Albertans deserve nothing less than a stable source of electricity - particularly when you consider how we get soaked on our power bills compared to many other Canadians.


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