Time For A Review Of Deregulation ‘Experiment’?

Saturday, 28 April 2012 02:01 Letter to the Editor

Re: “Power generates lively debate at Lethbridge East forum,” April 4.
David Mabell opines that Alberta’s “troubled experiment with deregulated power” was a hot topic at the April 4 Lethbridge East all-candidates forum. For sure! Government plans to expand the transmission system were the focus of the power discussion.
Interestingly, none of the candidates talked about the underlying hot-potato issue that is driving transmission system expansion. That would be the experiment with wind-generated electricity that our government imposed on the Alberta Electric System Operator. The AESO’s transmission system plan is readily available to the public. It makes clear that a need for massive transmission system expansion follows from a 2007 government directive to “start working on ways to enable electricity producers to add more wind to Alberta’s power supply.”
This could be an expensive path to follow. How far have we gone down it? A review of my power bills from 2004 and 2012 reveals substantial changes to my unit electricity cost. The increase in the charge for, “Administration,” “Energy,” “Transmission Charge,” “Distribution,” and “Local Access Fee” was 81, 28, 236, 45 and 78 per cent, respectively, over the eight years. I’ve left out two add-ons which came in since 2004. These are the “Balancing Pool Allocation” and the “AESO Demand Service Transmission (DTS) Rider.” These two summed up to essentially zero over 2011, but may warrant future scrutiny.
Certainly, transmission charges and other delivery related add-ons are increasing at a much faster rate than electricity itself. The relative increase for the “Transmission” charge is already dramatically higher than for the electricity (“Energy”) itself. We’ve barely started on planned transmission line expansion.
Would it be timely to take a time-out on transmission system building, as some candidates indicated they would, and review the consequences of our “experiment with deregulated power”? I think so. Lessons learned, and applied, could possibly help to provide Albertans with an electricity system which delivers essential energy at reasonable cost to users.

Duane Pendergast