Alberta needs to power up and sustain economic growth

Dear Editor:

Alberta’s network of transmission lines has become a creaky backbone that can no longer conduct a stable supply of electricity to Albertans.

That our province hasn’t completed a major transmission project for 20 years puts it in a similar predicament as other jurisdictions in North America. We, however, are fortunate to have a government that’s doing something about it.

The Alberta Chambers of Commerce (ACC) is a federation of 124 chambers representing 22,000 businesses. Our organization has long been concerned about the static state of Alberta’s transmission lines because businesses need a stable supply of electricity to operate efficiently. The sudden power failures that have occurred in recent years drastically affect their operations.

When we consider industry and commercial operations account for 78 per cent of energy use in Alberta, the importance of a secure power supply to the business community becomes obvious. For this reason, ACC has for many years been urging the Alberta government to upgrade and increase its transmission capacity. That’s why we are pleased with the progress that’s occurred towards completing critically needed upgrades and expansions to our provincial transmission system.

In 2009, the Alberta Electricity System Operator (AESO) identified the necessity of adding almost 12,000 megawatts of generation to meet Albertan’s current and future demand. It also laid out a $14.5-billion plan to build two new transmission lines between Calgary and Edmonton, a line to Alberta’s Industrial Heartland northeast of Edmonton, and two lines from the Industrial Heartland to Fort McMurray.

ACC supports the steps our government has taken to move forward with this vital infrastructure. When a province experiences three-per-cent annual growth in power consumption (equal to plugging two Red Deers into the grid) its network needs a boost, especially when it was stretched to its limit before the latest growth spurt.

Determining the routes, technology and infrastructure for transmission lines is the task of the Alberta Utilities Commission. Our federation’s concern has been the first fundamental step of approving the need for these vital projects because it takes years to construct the lines once they get the green light.

ACC also recognizes our province’s reputation for power reliability has tremendous impact on our potential to attract business. We believe AESO’s plan to strengthen and expand our transmission backbone will prepare Alberta for sustained growth in all sectors of our economy.

Ken Kobly, President and CEO

Alberta Chambers of Commerce