Changes for Alta. electricity

30 Nov 2016

Lethbridge Herald


The Alberta government is making more changes to how it handles electricity as it transitions out of coal-fired power.

The province is giving the entity that brokers the electricity system — known as the balancing pool — the ability to borrow money from the province to manage its funding obligations so those costs don’t get passed on to consumers.

The changes are in Bill 34, the Electric Utilities Amendment Act, which was introduced Tuesday.

The balancing pool was set up when Alberta deregulated electricity two decades ago, but Energy Minister Marg McCuaig-Boyd says that was a flawed approach.

She says power companies have been returning moneylosing power contracts to the balancing pool, with any outstanding costs to passed on to ratepayers.

“We inherited a volatile electricity system that did not look out for consumers,” said McCuaig-Boyd.

“We are correcting that and giving the balancing pool the tools it needs to limit cost impacts on consumers and enable greater predictability and stability.”

As it stands, the average electricity consumer gets a credit from the balancing pool each month of $1.95.

Without the proposed changes, the province says that $1.95 credit would become a monthly fee of $8.40, adding up to about $100 a year starting in 2017.

But opposition Progressive Conservative energy critic Rick Fraser said the province is once again using taxpayers’ money to backstop ill-conceived experiments that have contributed to this year’s $10.8-billion deficit.

“Allowing government to borrow unlimited funds from general revenue to keep the balancing pool afloat is a gross misuse of hard-earned taxpayer dollars,” said Fraser.

“We are facing electricity price volatility and a depleted balancing pool because of aggressive and ideological NDP policies.”