M.D. council quick to support forest industry

AESO proposal could kill the pulp mill, council hears

Joe McWilliams
Lakeside Leader

M.D. of Lesser Slave River council heard last week from Brock Mulligan of the Alberta Forest Products Association. He was there (via Zoom) to share the dire news that Slave Lake Pulp’s power costs could be going right through the roof if the Alberta Energy System Operator (AESO) gets its way.

Mulligan asked council for an expression of support for the forest industry, and opposition to a proposal to re-jig how electricity transmission is paid for. What it is, Mulligan explained, is that the AESO is proposing something (to the Alberta Utilities Commission) that would see Slave Lake Pulp and a small number of big power users pay a lot more for electricity. It could be as much as 40 per cent more on the transmission portion, Mulligan said, and could seriously jeopardize the pulp mill’s ability to stay in business.

“We think they are already paying more than their fair share,” Mulligan said.

The other side of the equation is residential power customers would see what the AFPA estimates is monthly savings of $1 to $5, if the AESO proposal goes into effect.

Reeve Murray Kerik was quick to speak up in support of the forest industry and against the AESO proposal. What good would it do people in the area to save a bit on their power bills if it kills an important employer, he said.

“It’s like we’re being penalized for their poor planning,” observed councillor Norm Seatter.

No argument from councillor Brad Pearson, who likened the proposal to “driving another nail into the coffin.”

Pearson made the motion, to send a letter to the Utilities Commission, stating the M.D.’s opposition to the AESO proposal, in support of the AFPA request. Copies will likely also go to the MLA and the concerned minister or ministers.

Asked to explain the reasoning behind the proposal, Mike Deising of the AESO told The Leader he couldn’t say much about it because it’s “before the courts,” as it were. But he did say it is not an attempt to raise more money. Rather, it “aims to ensure that all those using the transmission system pay their fair share.” It’s about “striking the right balance going forward,” Deising added.

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