Wildrose MLA Joe Anglin recently wrote a column about the pending sale of AltaLink to Berkshire Hathaway Energy (BHE). Mr. Anglin’s piece is strong on opinion but light on facts.
We want to be very clear. The sale to BHE will not increase the transmission charge on electricity bills for Albertans. In fact, that’s one of the critical tests of the Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC) process currently underway. It is the mandate of the AUC to ensure that no harm comes to ratepayers, whether by increased cost or impacts to reliability, as a result of this sale.
Under BHE ownership, there will be no loss of control over AltaLink’s transmission system. We will continue to be regulated by the AUC and the Alberta Electric System Operator will continue to operate the grid and identify new transmission projects to support our province.
The AUC isn’t the only formal review of this transaction. On July 25, Industry Canada announced its approval of the Berkshire Hathaway Energy application to purchase AltaLink. Its test was to ensure an overall economic benefit to Canada resulting from the sale. Some of the conditions of Industry Canada’s approval included maintaining Alberta jobs at AltaLink and confirming BHEs commitment to reinvest 100 per cent of AltaLink’s earnings back into the business, in Alberta or elsewhere in Canada. And BHE, like SNC-Lavalin does today, will pay Canadian income tax on its earnings in AltaLink.
Mr. Anglin also misunderstands the difference between being a publicly owned company and a publicly regulated company. Transmission, distribution and gas pipeline utilities have always been privately owned in Alberta — always — while being publicly regulated. Opponents to this deal suggest a single company can effectively build and maintain our provincial electricity network, but creating monopolies has never been in step with Alberta’s entrepreneurial spirit. Alberta needs to maintain multiple transmission facility owners to encourage competition and drive down costs for consumers. It’s a formula that has served Albertans well for more than 100 years.
Mr. Anglin seems to be advocating for the conversion of Alberta’s utilities to Crown corporations so that ratepayers can share in the proceeds of the sale. However, if the value of AltaLink’s business had gone down, I’m confident he wouldn’t be asking ratepayers to pick up the difference. That’s happening in Ontario where ratepayers have paid billions of dollars during the last 15 years to pay down the debt from its Crown utilities. That’s not what Albertans want and it’s not what our province was built on. While billions of dollars of investment have been required in AltaLink to keep pace with Alberta’s exceptional growth, none of this investment has added any debt to the Government of Alberta’s balance sheet.
We’re Albertans, too. And as a utility charged with supporting Alberta’s growing economy, we will ensure the transmission system is reliable, affordable and under Albertan control. These are the facts.
Senior Vice President, External Engagement