‘A great relief’
Two forest products industry reps beamed into the M.D. of Lesser Slave River council meeting last week to pass on some welcome news. Brock Mulligan of the Alberta Forest Products Association and Shannon Fehr of Slave Lake Pulp talked about the latest on proposed selective power rate hikes that Slave Lake Pulp (and others) would have found hard to bear. The M.D. had been part of a lobby effort to get the Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC) to put the kibosh on the proposed hikes.
Apparently, it worked, because the AUC had recently rejected the tariff increase, which Mulligan described as “a great relief.”
Rejected for the time being; it’s apparently to be re-visited in 2025.
“A stay of execution,” is how reeve Murray Kerik put it.
The tariff increase was touted by the Alberta Electric System Operator (AESO) as a way of recouping costs of transmission capacity expansion mainly from big power users.
The AESO’s sales pitch at the time (in 2021) was that doing it that way would mean residential customers wouldn’t have to pay an extra $50 a year on their power bills, or something along those lines.
But according to Slave Lake Pulp and the AFPA, the result would be something like a 40 per cent rate increase for the mill, which would put its survival in jeopardy. That’s the message the AFPA gave to the M.D. and the Town of Slave Lake back in January of this year. What’s the use in saving residents a few bucks on their power bills, they were asked, if they lose their jobs because the mill shuts down?
That’s all the two councils needed to hear, and they sent strongly-worded letters of protest to the AUC, supporting the AFPA and pulp mill position.
So, a reprieve, but the story continues.
“We expect the AESO to file again,” Fehr told council.
Councillor Darren Fulmore asked if Slave Lake Pulp has considered other means of generating its own power, so as to ‘get off the grid.’
Disconnecting from the grid is not as easy as it sounds, Fehr said. It’s there to support industry, so the better question is, “what can we do to make it better?”
Councillor Norm Seatter said no matter what scheme the authorities come up with to raise the money for power system upgrades, “everybody’s going to pay more.”