On July 9 six major electricity generators in Alberta unexpectedly shut off at roughly the same time when electricity demand was reaching a summer time high. According to the Alberta System Electric Operator (AESO) soaring temperatures on this day drove Alberta’s demand for electricity.
As the result of the shortage of electricity, widespread power outages spread out across the province, negatively affecting economic activity and endangering the safety of Albertans when traffic signals at busy intersections began to fail.
The unexpected shut down of the six generators also spiked electricity prices from $11/MW to $1,000/MW in a matter of minutes. Now electricity bills across Alberta are expected to rise in September, on average, 28 per cent to pay for the shortage of electricity on July 9.
What Albertans have not been told about the rolling blackouts of July 9, and what Albertans have not been told about the price gouging that subsequently followed is that the AESO also arbitrarily reduced electricity imports by 225 MW or 31 per cent, at the same time the system needed electricity.
Six generators shut off (tripped off-line) placing the system at risk of a possible blackout, but only after the AESO arbitrarily and deliberately reduced imports by 225 MW did the rolling blackout actually happen. In effect, the AESO initiated and effectuated the rolling blackouts. The public will now be forced to pay for this debacle.
The public deserves answers. Knowing the lights were going to go out, who made the decision to limit electricity imports and begin the rolling blackouts? It is hard for me to imagine that a middle manager at the AESO would have the authority to make such a decision. It is even harder for me to imagine that a senior manager at the AESO would turn the lights off without first consulting with Alberta Energy. Most importantly, why should the public (hard working people, including our seniors, small business owners, and low-income citizens), pay for this mismanagement?
The public needs answers and this government has shown time and time again that it is not willing to provide answers. While transparency and accountability may be the official buzzwords in the premier’s office, findings of fact and official reports are missing in action. You might say they are virtually invisible. It’s not that the facts and reports do not exist — they do. They are just not available for the public to see and read.
So as Albertans pay this month’s outrageous electric bills, the minister of energy is withholding the Retail Market Review Committee’s 390-page report from the public, which includes 41 recommendations on how to improve electricity bills. There is no rational or reasonable explanation why the public cannot see these recommendations.
After all, it’s the public that has to pay.
Joe Anglin is the MLA for Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre.