MLA critical of electrical shortages

Written by Trevor Busch

Thursday, 11 July 2013 20:34

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Rolling blackouts that affected the province’s electrical grid last week are symtoms of weakness in a system that needs to be assessed and overhauled, says Cardston-Taber-Warner MLA Gary Bikman.  “I think it’s an indication that the system itself — I won’t say it’s broken, but it is inadequate, and there are some areas that need to be fixed. The AESO has said the rolling blackouts were the result of low wind generation and planned and unplanned maintenance, and that a transformer substation near Edmonton had failed.” “But with the blackouts last year it just seems we haven’t learned what we perhaps should, or could, have learned. It’s unacceptable for two years running Alberta power consumers have been put at risk, and inconveienced at the very least.” Six northside districts of Lethbridge were affected by the rolling blackouts. Surrounding communities remained unaffected. Ordered by the Alberta Electric Systems Operator (AESO), the blackouts lasted for nearly an hour before AESO lifted the order, as power demand had dropped from a high of 10,062 MW to 9,876 MW. Consumption on July 2 was well below the maximum generation level the province can actually produce, according to Bikman. “(Minister of Energy) Ken Hughes I think is a really good guy, very bright, but I think he needs to drill down a little deeper in his department to get all of the facts. We’re going to need his kind of leadership, or somebody else to step forward to fix the problem. On July 2 there was a peak usage of 10,062 MW — that’s well below the 10,609 MW record consumption in January 2012. Our system has the capacity to supply up to 14,000 MW when all the generators are running at full capacity.”  Hard questions need to be asked about anticipation of electrical demand amongst the province’s electrical producers to prevent these kinds of situations in the future, added Bikman.  “For our system to fail, and for the system to fail to be prepared for hot weather in summer, that puts a lot of us at risk, and I don’t think that’s acceptable. There’s got to be a more efficient and stable way to resolve this and create a system that is capable of handling these peak demands that come along, especially when we’re in the situation we are with the problems with the flooded areas — they’re relying on electricity. Even so, we still didn’t match the peak demand from January 2012.”  Reform may be needed with regard to how power is bought and sold in Alberta, amongst other efforts.  “I think there needs to be (reform),” said Bikman. “We’ve talked about this in our caucus, and I think a lot of right thinking people believe that there needs to be a better job done in that area, and that our core system needs to be redesigned to take advantage of more of the kinds of fuels that are so prevelant and clean burning within out own province, natural gas obviously being one. And too heavy a reliance on wind power, as we seem to be moving toward, as green as it appears to be — the wind doesn’t always blow, and when it doesn’t you have to have redundancies to back it up. I think there are improvements that need to be made in how we purchase electricity.”