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Society
| 03/11/16

Alberta says no hydro-power deal without pipeline to coast

TCE

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley said this week that her land-locked province is not interested in purchasing hydroelectric power from its western neighbour if it cannot get an oil pipeline built to the coast.

The province’s NDP government has committed to phasing out coal-fired power plants in Alberta by 2030. More than half of the province’s electricity currently comes from coal.

“We’re not necessarily going to have that much demand for that much electricity if we can’t find someone to sell our product to,” Notley told reporters in Fort McMurray, home to the country’s oil sands industry, which has been seeking new pipeline connectivity to both west and east coasts.

Meanwhile, working in the opposite direction, BC energy and mines minister Bill Bennett said his province was not interested in receiving fresh federal funds for clean energy projects in the province, as it is already largely depending on clean hydroelectricity. Bennett made the comments in the wake of a federal government announcement of $5.4 million for renewable-energy projects servicing the province’s First Nations as part of its delivery on an election commitment to infrastructure spending.

What BC wants instead, according to Bennett, is cash from Ottawa for a new $1-billion transmission line so that it can sell surplus power to Alberta.

“We can see an opportunity for both jurisdictions to benefit from the sale of our clean electricity to them,” BC Energy Minister Bill Bennett told the Vancouver Sun last month.

However, the proposed deal is far from settled.

“We’ll do what’s best for Albertans and Alberta’s economy,” Alberta energy minister Marg McCuaig-Boyd kicked back in a statement last week. “We won’t be buying more power if we can’t get our resources to market.”

Furthermore, any cross-border power agreement is already facing controversy even in BC.

Vancouver-Kingsway MLA and former BC NDP leader Adrian Dix suggested such a deal would be used to justify construction of the controversial Site C hydroelectric dam in northeastern BC, which has faced protests from locals and First Nations over the flooding of agricultural lands and culturally significant sites.

The response from the BC government to Alberta’s rebuff has since worked to cool tensions, with Bennett saying he was open to a quid pro quo of pipeline access in return for a hydroelectric deal.

“We in BC are not opposed to other Canadians getting their products to the west coast at all,” Bennett later told reporters. “I think we can work through this and find a way to do business together.”

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