Jasper environmentalists attend ATCO hearing
by Evan Matthews | firstname.lastname@example.org
A surging opposition gathered in Calgary last month, as environmental experts cited obstructed views, reliability and animal welfare in their fight against ATCO Electric’s proposed interconnection project.
On Jan. 9, the Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC) held a public hearing regarding ATCO’s proposed powerline. The commission heard from ATCO, and interveners including the Jasper Environmental Association (JEA) and Peter Bubik.
The AUC is expected to make a decision on ATCO’s proposed 45-kilometre, 69-KV single circuit line by May 4.
Should the project go ahead, the Palisades Power Plant, which currently supplies the bulk of Jasper’s electricity, will be decommissioned and torn down. According to ATCO, the power plant is nearing the end of its operational lifespan and needs to be replaced.
During the four-day hearing in Calgary, JEA-hired experts — including professional engineers, chartered accountants, and a principal from the Insitu Power Corporation — pointed out rebuilding the present generation plant would be cheaper and more reliable than an exposed line susceptible to windstorms and forest fires, according to the JEA.
“This solution would also preserve the integrity of the park’s wildlife habitat and leave the views unspoiled,” says JEA vice chairperson David Hatto via a press release. “ATCO’s environmental impact assessment admits even with mitigations there would still be habitat loss, displacement or alteration of wildlife movement patterns and increased mortality risk. This is unacceptable in a national park and world heritage site.”
ATCO did not provide more specific scientific data speaking to the cost of line’s electricity or line’s reliability by presstime.
However, ATCO’s director of engineering and project management Guillaume Vachon told The Fitzhugh that the interconnection project would provide “similar” reliability levels, and would provide Jasperites the opportunity to access green energy from the Alberta Interconnected Electric System (AIES), as Alberta transitions to a greater proportion of renewable energy sources.
Vachon also said ATCO explored several options — aside from the proposed interconnection project — including renewable solutions such as solar or wind, but ATCO kept coming back to the proposed power line as the most cost efficient and reliable project.
In reference to construction cost differential, ATCO has a very different opinion from that of the JEA.
Vachon said continuing operation of the current Palisades Power Plant would be considerably more expensive than construction of the new line.
“The cost to construct and maintain the proposed interconnection facilities is expected to be approximately $50 million less in total cost than continuing to operate the existing power plant,” he wrote.
Vachon added in order to help minimize potential visual impacts of the line, “99 percent” of the proposed line follows an existing road and utility alignments, with several sections replacing existing power lines.