Nenshi calls proposed twin power lines ‘terrible’ idea

Calgary mayor uses Enmax meeting to reiterate effort to shield consumers from surcharges

By Jason Markusoff, Calgary Herald May 12, 2012

Calgary’s Mayor says he is very pleased to see the man he battled in the 2010 civic election is now Alberta’s new transportation minister. Naheed Nenshi says Mayoralty candidate Ric McIver should be a strong ally for Calgary – especially with his previous efforts to champion the southeast C-train line and a southweest ring road. McIver was appointed to Alison Redford’s cabinet Tuesday.

CALGARY — Although it appears the war’s been fought and lost, Mayor Naheed Nenshi railed Friday against the province’s move to build north-south power transmission lines and vowed to continue pressing for a way to shield Calgarians from surcharges for the lines.

At the annual general meeting of Enmax — the first one for new CEO Gianna Manes — the mayor called the $3-billion twin power lines a “terrible” idea that won’t be needed because of the city-owned utility’s own project, a $1-billion gas-fired power plant in the Shepard district.

“And to build both of them and to put those costs on everyone, even the ratepayers in Calgary who, once the Shepard Energy Centre is built, actually won’t be using them very much, strikes me as very, very strange public policy,” the mayor told reporters after the meeting.

He said he’ll try lobbying Energy Minister Ken Hughes on this front, though he’s not confident he’ll have success.

Earlier this year, an independent review committee — appointed by Premier Alison Redford — reconfirmed the need for the extra transmission capacity, which Alberta Energy plans to have in service by late 2015 for a provincial population forecast of four million.

The need is there for both lines, and having both in different parts of the province also protects the grid from weather shocks, government spokesman Bob McManus said.

“If you have an ice storm or you have heavy snow or you have some kind of problem in one part of the province, it’s unlikely to also occur in the other part of the province.”

Since all power providers use the provincial electricity grid, all customers must pay the cost of new lines equally.

The province estimates the cost of the power lines will add $3 to monthly power bills, but the Redford government has urged the electricity regulator to find ways to limit those costs.

Charles Ruigrok, the utility’s outgoing interim CEO, said Enmax recognizes the eventual need of the lines — it’s a matter of when.

“Our hope will continue to be that despite the fact that construction of both lines has been approved and supported, that we will still see it phased in a smart way so that consumers aren’t asked to pay the cost of transmission infrastructure that’s not required.”

For most of his term, Nenshi has been less outspoken on Enmax transmission policy than on the company’s governance record, including pay and perks controversies that saw former CEO Gary Holden ousted last year.

With new chief executive Manes standing next to him, he told reporters “this is a very different feel than the AGM a year ago.”

Manes, who was a senior executive at U.S. power giant Duke Energy, was loath to talk Friday about her new company’s past.

She said she’s looking forward to working with the current “solid” executive team and moving her family to Calgary.

“What I can do as a leader of Enmax, really, is to bring my leadership and practice those values. What I’m concerned about is how we behave going forward,” Manes said.

Holden, fired in January 2011 after it was revealed he took a trip to Monaco on a software provider’s tab, was paid a total $5.7 million in salary, severance and pension last year, CBC News reported Friday. The company had previously disclosed that his severance was $4.6 million.

City hall will reap a 2012 dividend of $56 million, nearly the same as last year, after 2011 net earnings rose to $184.6 million from $177.8 million in the previous year. The firm’s revenue had risen by $700 million over the 2010 level, but that was matched by a rise in expenses.

Early returns for this year, however, are looking rosier: $62.6 million net earnings in the first quarter, compared with $49.8 million in the first quarter of the prior year.

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