AltaLink Powerline for Southern Alberta Rejected08-Dec-11
by Evan Dixon
On December 1, the Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC) released Decision 2011-468 in which it ruled that applications filed by the Alberta Electric System Operator (AESO) and AltaLink to construct and operate the Fidler substation and related transmission lines near Pincher Creek, Alberta were deficient.
The proceeding is of interest as the Commission, on its own motion, called a hearing to address two "preliminary issues":
(i) whether the AESO should be required to amend the Southern Alberta Transmission Reinforcement Needs Identification Document (SATR NID) which was being relied on to construct interconnecting lines for the substation facility; and
(ii) whether the application should be combined with a future application for connections commencing from the Fidler substation to an interconnection point with the 500 kV tie line.
In Alberta, new transmission projects require both NID approval, pursuant to 34 of the Electric Utilities Act, and facilities approval. The Commission established the prehearing to consider whether the NID approval from the SATR Proceeding, Decision 2009-126 (“SATR Decision”)1 had approved the need for the transmission line proposed in the current applications.
The Commission determined that the need for the transmission facilities linking the Fidler substation to the Goose Lake station had not been approved in the SATR Decision. It determined that there were material differences between the facilities proposed in SATR both in terms of their geographic location and electric system configuration. Furthermore, the Commission found that the public consultation process conducted in support of the SATR Decision did not give potentially affected stakeholders the opportunity to express concerns on the project as now proposed, thereby denying landowners procedural fairness.
The Commission concluded that to connect the Fidler substation required the AESO to either file an amendment to the SATR NID or seek new NID approval for the interconnecting line as a precondition to the continued processing of the currently applied for Fidler facilities application.
While the Commission accepted the argument of the AESO, AltaLink and wind generators, that there is an urgency to connect wind farms in the Pincher Creek area to the grid, it stated that urgency does not relieve the AESO of its statutory obligation under the Electric Utilities Act to obtain approval of the need for such interconnection facilities.
Gavin Fitch and Evan Dixon of McLennan Ross LLP’s Calgary office acted for the successful Intervenor in this proceeding, the Livingstone Landowners Group, who argued that the plan to construct the Goose Lake to Fidler line as a pre-build of the future transmission line through to Chapel Rock through the Livingstone Range was not approved as part of the SATR Decision.
1 SATR Proceeding, Decision 2009-126 contemplated the construction of a line from the Goose Lake substation to the Fidler substation as part of a future plan to interconnect to conceptual Crowsnest substation at a point approximately 30 kilometers north of the Crowsnest Pass through one of Alberta’s most iconic landscapes, outside of the potential locations identified in the SATR Decision.