Alberta Won’t Buy Power From B.C. Without Pipeline Approval

Christie Clarke

By Jenny Tan

March 10, 2016

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley is saying Alberta will not buy renewable power from its western neighbour if it can’t get an oil pipeline built to the B.C. coast.

The 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.

But it seems Alberta may not turn to B.C. for renewable electricity without getting something in return.

“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 said during a teleconference last week, as reported by the Calgary Herald.

Meanwhile, B.C. is seeking federal funding for a new $1-billion transmission line to move surplus power from B.C. to Alberta.

“We can see an opportunity for both jurisdictions to benefit from the sale of our clean electricity to them,” B.C. 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 said in an email statement last week, as reported by the Financial Post. “We won’t be buying more power if we can’t get our resources to market.”

Progressive Conservative Leader Ric McIver applauded Notley’s stance. “Alberta shouldn’t allow other provinces … to treat us like a doormat,” McIver told the Herald.

Other Albertan leaders agree. “It has to be a two-way street,” said Wildrose critic Prasad Panda to the Herald. “It has to be win-win for all.”

The proposed deal is facing controversy even in B.C. Vancouver-Kingsway MLA Adrian Dix suggested the deal is being used to justify construction of the controversial Site C dam in northeastern B.C. Protesters claim the dam will flood sacred and historically significant sites.

The response from the B.C. government to Alberta’s opposition has been outwardly optimistic. “We in B.C. are not opposed to other Canadians getting their products to the West Coast at all,” Bennett told the Herald. “I think we can work through this and find a way to do business together.”

As positive as Bennett may be, the strained relationship between B.C. and Alberta under Clark’s government may not help the deal. The Financial Post notes that in her February throne speech, Clark had harsh words for Alberta, saying that the province “lost its focus … They expected their resource boom never to end, failed to diversify their economy and lost control of government spending.”