The recent announcement of Berkshire Hathaway’s proposed investment in AltaLink has generated debate about foreign investment in Alberta in general and in Alberta’s electricity infrastructure in particular.
Those opposed to the investment state they are concerned that foreign investment in AltaLink’s transmission system will put Albertan and Canadian interests at risk. My commitment to you is that AltaLink’s No. 1 imperative, under any investor model, is to serve and support Albertans by ensuring that our province has the reliable and cost-effective transmission service that we need to keep our economy growing.
The fact is that the proposed investment in AltaLink is good for Albertans. And it’s consistent with Alberta’s values of entrepreneurship and openness to investment.
Berkshire Hathaway Energy understands and supports the important role AltaLink plays in powering Alberta’s economy, by transmitting electricity to 85 per cent of Albertans. AltaLink will continue to operate as a separate, locally managed business, governed by an independent board of directors. Our headquarters, our control centre and our team of great employees will remain Alberta-based with a singular goal — serving Albertans.
This proposed investment is not unique. Electricity companies across Canada, and many in Alberta, have had a long, successful history of foreign investment. What is unique is that Berkshire Hathaway Energy brings a long-term commitment to Albertans. With that view, they have already committed that 100 per cent of the profit generated from their investment in AltaLink will be reinvested exclusively into AltaLink, Alberta or Canada. Berkshire Hathaway Energy also brings top tier global experience in the electricity industry. We will share best operational practices and pass the benefits on to our customers.
As with all of AltaLink’s daily operations, new investors in our business must be approved through a rigorous regulatory process at both the provincial and federal levels. Unlike foreign investment in other sectors of Alberta, AltaLink is regulated by the Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC). The AUC has broad legal powers to ensure that, no matter who the ultimate investor may be, AltaLink’s business will continue to be operated by the utility for the benefit of our customers. In this case, the ownership transition will be seamless for our customers. Alberta consumers will be protected in the process, as they should be.
Alberta needs to continue to have multiple transmission facility owners. It drives each of us to be better and lowers costs to Albertans. Compared to our Canadian peers, AltaLink delivers top quartile results in reliability, safety and cost efficiency, all while executing a significant construction program, ensuring our economy has the power it needs to prosper.
Keeping AltaLink whole, as Berkshire Hathaway Energy has committed, will ensure the transmission system continues to reliably power Alberta’s economy.
Alberta is Canada’s economic engine. We have built this province through ingenuity, innovation and investment. There is a long and proud tradition of foreign investment in Alberta’s electric market and other industries, including other critical infrastructure investments. Foreign investment isn’t something to be feared, it’s something that is well known in Alberta and welcomed. It makes Alberta better and provides benefits to each and every one of us.
Let’s allow the federal and provincial regulators to do their job and ensure that Albertans continue to have the transmission system they deserve.
Scott Thon, P.Eng., is the president and CEO of AltaLink.