With the introduction of Bill 8, the Electric Utilities Amendment Act, 2012, in the Alberta legislature, the story of Critical Transmission Infrastructure (CTI) in the province is about to come full circle.
The Stelmach government introduced the concept of CTI in 2009. Bill 50, the Electric Statutes Amendment Act, 2009, provided that cabinet would have the right to designate certain transmission infrastructure as CTI. For facilities designated as CTI, there would be no Alberta Utilities Commission review of the need for the facility, as is otherwise mandatory for new facilities.
Designation of facilities as "critical" proved to be controversial. Upon her election in October, 2011, Premier Redford stopped hearings into the Western Alberta Transmission Line and the Eastern Alberta Transmission Line, and appointed an expert panel to review the need for those two facilities.
The expert panel reported back in February, 2012, and recommended that the two facilities proceed. It also recommended that the Electric Utilities Act should be amended to grant the Alberta Utilities Commission (not cabinet) the authority to designate CTI.
The proposed Bill 8 would effectively remove the concept of CTI from the Electric Utilities Act. The provisions of the Act which grant cabinet the right to designate projects will be entirely removed, meaning that (short of amending the Act) there will be no way to designate new projects as CTI. All new transmission projects will be subject to a needs review by the Utilities Commission.
Existing projects already designated in the Schedule to the Act ( the Western Alberta Transmission Line, the Eastern Alberta Transmission Line, the Heartland Transmission Line near Edmonton, and reinforcements between Edmonton and Fort McMurray) will remain designated as CTI and will not be affected by the amendments.