Ken Kobly is the president and CEO of the Alberta Chambers of Commerce (ACC). His recent comments to the editor that Alberta’s transmission lines are creaky and can no longer conduct a stable supply of electricity to Albertans are counterfactual and fundamentally inappropriate. Kobly’s comments appear to be more politically motivated, than based on any credible quantifiable study capable of qualifying for approval from an unbiased regulatory board.
Every published technical study conducted on these proposed transmission lines refers to the projects as inefficient and economically unjustifiable. Ironically, even the government’s own Utility Consumer Advocate (UCA) paid for a study that urged the UCA to oppose these transmission lines because they were uneconomical and unnecessary. The UCA study also insinuated that the Alberta Electric Systems Operator (AESO) was being biased in its assumptions. It is amazing to think that a pseudo government agency paid for a study that accused another pseudo government agency of being biased. Both agencies claim to be independent, but there is little convincing evidence to support either of their claims.
What is most embarrassing about Kobly’s comments is that as a businessperson, he would advocate spending $14.5 billion without having conducted a cost-benefit analysis. It is shocking to think that anyone in their right mind would proceed knowing that the AESO has never conducted a cost-benefit analysis for any of these proposed projects. Had Kobly done his homework he would have discovered that the AESO is actually proposing to build $16.6 billion in transmission projects over the next 10 years not $14.5 billion, but what is a couple billion dollars among friends when it is all being paid for by the ratepayers of Alberta?
Building transmission lines does not produce one extra watt of power. If we need more power then we must build generators. It is that simple. Transmission lines only move power from where it is generated (located), to where it is needed. Kobly could have told us in his letter where he thinks the generators are located in Alberta and where he thinks the electricity needs to go. For example, should the public pay $600 million to build a twin 500KV transmission line from Genesee to the Heartland, or build a $260-million generator that would supply more than the amount of power required in the Heartland? The added advantage of building a generator where it is needed would increase the reliability of the system and also add to the efficiency and life of the existing lines. Clearly the public would benefit more by building a generator where it is needed.
In closing, the “Consumers for Competitive Transmission” referred to these projects as “unnecessarily mortgaging Alberta’s future.” This industry group is made up of the forestry, petro-chemical, fabricated metal, and machinery industries. Together they employ nearly 100,000 Albertans and indirectly they affect the employment of nearly 400,000 Albertans. Kobly should take a second look at these employment numbers before these jobs start to disappear due to the high cost of building inefficient transmission lines.
Then again, maybe the 22,000 businesses Kobly claims to represent might just want a new representative after they start to see their electric bills triple.