Justin Trudeau 'open' to $1-billion B.C. power line into Alberta

CALGARY - - Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he’s open to the idea of supporting a new grid that would ship surplus B.C. electricity to Alberta to help that province reduce its reliance on coal.

Premier Christy Clark’s government has launched “exploratory” talks on a jointly funded project, estimated to cost close to $1 billion, with the Alberta and federal governments.

The objective would be to help BC Hydro improve the economics of the $8.8-billion Site C hydroelectric project, while helping Alberta reduce its dependence on coal and natural gas.

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley’s government, meanwhile, has expressed an interest in the notion as long as B.

C. shows more support for an oilsands pipeline to carry diluted Alberta bitumen to the West Coast.

Trudeau, in an interview last week, said the federal government would take a close look at a funding proposal from Western Canada.

“I think anything we can work together interprovincially or nationally on to get emissions down, you know, emphasizing hydroelectricity, creating opportunities to get off coal, to get off natural gas, where possible, this is good for the country, it’s good for our emissions profile, it’s good for the economy we need to build,” he said.

“So I’m open to discussing proposals when they come forward, but so far we haven’t had any formal proposals.”

Some critics have scoffed at Clark’s pitch, with the B.C. NDP’s BC Hydro critic, Adrian Dix, portraying it as a desperate move to justify the enormous expense of the Site C project on the Peace River in northeastern B.C., which won’t be completed until 2024.

Some also question the economics of an expanded B.C.-to-Alberta transmission system.

Harry Swain, who was the chairman of the defunct federal-provincial panel that assessed the Site C proposal, cited in a Vancouver Sun opinion piece last week figures that indicated B.C. power would cost Alberta more than twice what it pays producing power with natural gas and its own renewable sources.

“The Alberta market is not for real,” writes the former senior federal bureaucrat, who is now an associate fellow at the University of Victoria’s Centre for Global Studies.

The Canadian Energy Research Institute, in a January study of options available to transmit electricity to power the oilsands sector, also said the B.C. option would be significantly more expensive than natural gas.

And the study questioned whether B.C. system will have the capacity to follow through.


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