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The applicants and its roles:

Role of the Alberta Electric System Operator
The Alberta Electric System Operator (AESO) administers the province-wide electric transmission system, which includes the overall planning for the facilities and method of operating the electric transmission system. Once the AESO has identified a need for new or upgraded transmission lines, substations or other equipment associated with the transmission system and has determined how it proposes to address that need, it prepares a needs identification document (NID) and files it with the AUC as its application for approval of the need for the project. Typically, the NID describes the circumstances creating the need to build new transmission lines or substations, or the need to upgrade existing facilities to deliver power to towns, cities and industries throughout the province, or to connect power plants to the transmission system. Following the approval of the NID, the AESO assigns the responsibility to advance a project to a transmission facility owner (TFO).

As an alternative process, legislation permits the NID and TFO applications to be considered concurrently by the AUC. In those instances, assignment of a project to a TFO may be done prior to the NID being approved.

Role of the transmission facility owner
A transmission facility owner (TFO) proposing to build an electric facility must submit an application to the AUC to obtain a permit to construct and a license to operate the facility. The application filed by the TFO in respect of a proposed transmission line is often referred to as a facility application. A TFO must not commence construction of the transmission line or substation until the facility application has been approved by the AUC.

However, in some instances, a TFO may be authorized by the AESO to acquire materials and/or equipment required for a project in advance of the facility approval, if the AESO determines that the lead times to acquire the equipment and materials could delay the installation resulting in an adverse impact to the transmission system’s reliability.

The application process

The AUC’s process for hearing applications provides a forum to consider the interests of all parties. Parties include landowners and others who may be directly and adversely affected by a proposed transmission project, and includes the broader public interest of other Albertans who do not experience direct, adverse affects but who may benefit from the construction of a transmission line.

Step 1:

Early planning by Alberta Electric System Operator
In preparation for a NID application, using detailed technical modelling, AESO determines whether there is a need for new or upgraded transmission lines or substations in order to avoid violations of accepted reliability criteria, or to reduce the overall cost of delivering electricity. The NID application may discuss more than one alternative for solving a system requirement that has been identified by the AESO in the course of its planning. Where the AESO has considered more than one option, the NID application will normally describe the AESO’s preferred option, including its rationale for selecting that option over the other alternatives. However, while the AUC’s decision in respect of a NID application may include a decision on the appropriate geographic region or corridor in which to locate a proposed facility, the exact location and routing of the proposed transmission lines or substations is subsequently determined by the AUC in the proceeding to consider the TFO’s facility application.

Early planning by a transmission facility owner
Before submitting a facility application, the TFO that has been assigned by the AESO, to construct transmission lines or substations, must carefully evaluate and identify potential alternative transmission line routes and/or substation locations. The TFO examines the potential effects of the alternative routes or locations based on such factors as:
- land ownership
- land zoning
- current land use
- existing development such as towns, cities and industrial sites
- agricultural developments of all types
- wildlife, parks and recreation
- archaeological and historical resources


Step 2:

Public consultation

As a part of preparing a complete application, the AUC requires the AESO and TFOs, as applicable, to conduct effective public consultation in the area of the proposed transmission lines or substations or along any proposed alternative route. The AUC has issued requirements regarding public consultation for the AESO and TFOs in Appendix A of AUC Rule 007, Rules Respecting Applications for Power Plants, Substations, Transmission Lines, and Industrial System Designation. Rule 007 is available on the AUC’s website.

AESO
The AESO must notify all occupants, residents and landowners in the areas or corridors where facilities could be installed by the TFO to implement the AESO’s preferred option as well as any alternative corridors. The AESO must also notify industry stakeholders, including all groups that participate in electric industry proceedings.

TFO
The TFO must provide comprehensive information to potentially directly and adversely affected parties (e.g., landowners, lessees, trappers, cottage owners and renters) so that they fully understand what facilities are being proposed for lands they own or have an interest in. This public consultation process applies to all potential transmission line routes and substation locations being proposed by the TFO.

The TFO should provide and/or be prepared to discuss the following matters in the course of the public consultation process related to a proposed facility application:

- The route for any transmission lines and the location of proposed substations, as well as any alternative routes or locations,
- Construction schedules and details.
- The amount of surface area needed for the right-of-way and construction,
- plans for access road(s).
- Reclamation plans for the right-of-way.
- Safety precautions for nearby residents.
- Inspection plans for the completed power line.
- The expected life span of the line.
- What can be done to minimize visual impacts of transmission lines or substations for residents.
- Impacts which residents can expect on land use, agriculture, etc.

Land compensation and negotiation
The AUC does not deal with land compensation issues. However, before a transmission line can be built, the TFO must secure easements, rights-of-way, or agreements from owners or administrators of affected lands prior to entering onto lands for the purpose of constructing a transmission facility. Where affected lands are privately owned, the TFO will negotiate agreements directly with the landowner. If an agreement cannot be reached, the TFO may apply to the Surface Rights Board for the resolution of disputes regarding the amount of compensation to be paid to the landowner. Disputes regarding compensation for access to private land cannot be taken to the Surface Rights Board until the TFO has received AUC approval for its facility application.

Step 3:

Submitting applications

AESO NID application

After the public consultation process and before recommending a preferred option within the NID application filed with the AUC, AESO is expected to take into consideration what it has learned during the consultation process.

Prior to the AUC’s formal consideration of a NID application, AUC staff may request additional information from the AESO on technical issues or specifications that the AUC staff considers to be required.

In most cases, for a significant project in which more than one design option and/or geographic corridor may be under consideration, the AESO should provide the following information within a NID Application:

- agricultural impact
- residential impact
- environmental impact
- cost
- electrical considerations
- visual impact
- special constraints.

TFO facility application
After the TFO has conducted its public consultation on the proposed transmission lines or substations, it submits an application to the AUC for a permit to construct and licence to operate the transmission facilities. As with a NID application prepared by the AESO, prior to being considered by the AUC as a complete application, AUC staff may request that the TFO provide additional information to support the application.

Step 4:

AUC notice of application

AESO NID application

AESO NID applications may range from minor upgrades to an existing facility to a very complex, major area transmission system development that involves an addition of multiple transmission lines and/or electrical substations. Therefore, except for minor alteration or upgrades to existing facilities, AESO need applications generally identify a larger potential area for a project than the actual transmission facilities will eventually cover. Therefore, the AUC uses different methods to notify the public of an AESO need application.

For simple alterations or upgrades to existing facilities that take place within the existing fenced area and where the facilities would have no additional visual impact, the AUC issues a notice to a list of pre-identified, interested, potentially directly and adversely affected parties. For new electric transmission lines or more complex alterations or upgrades, the AUC advertises the proposed NID application in local newspapers in the area where the proposed transmission lines or substations would be located. Additionally, the AUC may send direct notice to all parties with interests in lands located within the identified general area of the project.

TFO electric transmission line or substation application
The AUC sends a direct notice to all known parties who may be directly and adversely affected by the application. Also, the AUC publishes a notice of application in local newspapers distributed near the proposed transmission project area and in major Alberta daily newspapers that serve the area of interest.

The notice of application informs the public on how copies of the application may be obtained directly from the applicant or through AUC’s website, how to access any additional materials filed by parties supporting or opposing the application and how to become a direct participant in the application process.

Step 5:

Becoming a participant in an electric transmission project proceeding
One reason the AUC requires the AESO and TFO to conduct effective consultation before submitting their formal application is to allow Albertans to become familiar with the proposal and to identify any issues or concerns they believe may directly and adversely affect them. Where parties cannot resolve their concerns at the consultation stage with the applicant, they may decide to become a direct participant in an AUC proceeding. If parties decide they would like to participate directly in the AUC’s proceeding regarding the proposal, they must make a written submission to be considered for intervener status.

Submissions must contain:

• A description of the nature of the party’s interest in the application, including in particular how the party considers that they may be directly and adversely affected by the AUC’s decision to approve the application under consideration.
• A brief explanation of the party’s position including the reasons why the party believes that the AUC should decide in the manner the person recommends.

Subject to the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, all documents filed in respect of an application must be placed on the public record. If a party wishes to keep any information in a document confidential, they must make a request for confidentiality to the AUC, by contacting the lead application officer specified in the notice of application, before filing the document in question.

AUC eFiling System
Submissions may be sent to the AUC through the mail, email, fax or directly through our eFiling System. All submissions will be considered a part of the public record and documents associated with applications are stored and accessed through the eFiling System. More information on these systems can be found on the eFiling System page of the AUC’s website.

Financial assistance
Parties who are deemed to be directly and adversely affected by a proposed transmission line or substation may be reimbursed for reasonable costs incurred in support of their participation in a AUC proceeding. Details regarding interveners’ costs are described in AUC Rule 009: Rules on Local Interveners Costs.

Step 6:

More consultation and negotiation

After parties file submissions, the AUC still encourages the applicant and those who have filed submissions to try to resolve any outstanding issues. AUC experience shows that many issues can be resolved through early negotiations, and that more positive outcomes result from early or intermediate negotiations than from the hearing process. Any unresolved matters would usually be addressed at a public hearing held in the general area of the proposed project.

Step 7:

The public hearing process

The public hearing process provides an opportunity for those involved to express their views directly to an AUC panel. Matters raised for the AUC’s consideration generally include:

1. In an AESO NID application:
- Views on the underlying need for some transmission line or project to be built.
- Views on alternative ways of addressing the system need identified by the AESO.
- The general location of a transmission project.

2. In TFO applications for an electric transmission project:
- The specific location of proposed substations and the route(s) of proposed transmission lines.
- Its impacts on residents and the environment.
- Its impacts on agricultural operations.
- Its visual impacts.
- The cost of the proposed facilities.
- Technical issues
- Safety matters.

The AUC schedules the hearing and publishes a notice of hearing in newspapers in the local area and in major Alberta daily newspapers to notify those who may be interested. Copies of this notice are also mailed directly to adversely affected parties that have expressed their intention to become direct participants in the proceeding. The notice of hearing will normally set out the deadlines for various steps in the process, including deadlines for filing written submissions and for preparing questions to be answered by the applicant.

For more complex projects, the AUC may hold a pre-hearing meeting to determine the issues, timing and location of the hearing. If a pre-hearing meeting is to be held, the details of the meeting would be included in the Notice of Hearing.

If a pre-hearing meeting has been held, the AUC will issue a pre-hearing meeting decision report, usually within a very short time after the pre-hearing meeting, that specifies:
- The location and timing of the hearing.
- The issues to be addressed at the hearing.
- The process and schedule to used for obtaining and filing information.
- Any other specifics or directions for parties attending the scheduled hearing.

Parties who directly participate in a hearing may represent themselves or be represented by counsel. In addition, parties directly participating in the hearing may hire technical experts to assist in preparing and presenting evidence to support their position. However, parties who hire counsel and/or technical experts must be aware that while reimbursement for the costs of legal and technical assistance may be available, it is not guaranteed. Parties with similar interests and positions are expected to cooperate with each other to ensure that any expenditure for outside legal or technical assistance is spent efficiently.

Hearings and pre-hearing meetings are usually held in or near the area that will be affected by the proposed project and, where practicable, at times and places convenient for those involved. When public hearings are not held locally, interveners may be reimbursed for reasonable travel expenses (see Step 5). Any member of the public may attend a public hearing to observe. All persons attending a public hearing whether participating or observing are expected to act in a respectful manner at all times.

Step 8:

The decision

After hearing an application, the AUC has three options in reaching a decision: approve the application as it was applied for, approve it with conditions, or deny the application. Unless unusual circumstances precludes, the AUC endeavours to release decisions within 90 days after the close of the hearing. Decisions are issued in the form of a public written report that summarizes the AUC’s findings and includes its final decision. Parties that participated in the hearing will receive a copy of the report directly from the AUC. The AUC may even decide to issue a news release on the decision. All AUC decision reports are available to any member of the public through the AUC’s website.

Step 9:

Construction and operation with regard to transmission facility owner applications

TFO’s must adhere to any condition that has been set out in the AUC’s decision in respect of a TFO facility application. If a party notices something during the construction and/or operation phases of a power line project that concerns them, such concerns should be brought to the TFO’s attention. If a party is not satisfied with the response they receive, concerns may be brought to the attention of the AUC Complaints branch located in Edmonton.

 

For additional information:

Public Involvement in Facility Applications to the Alberta Utilities Commission Brochure

AUC contact information

Alberta Electric System Operator
2500, 330 Fifth Avenue SW
Calgary, Alberta T2P0L4
Telephone: 403-539-2450
Fax: 403-539-2949

Land Compensation and Negotiation
Surface Rights Board
Phipps-McKinnon Building, 18th floor
10020 101A Avenue
Edmonton, Alberta T5J 3G2
Telephone: 403-427-2444

Land Conservation and Reclamation
Alberta Environmental Protection
Oxbridge Place, Third floor
9820 106 Street
Edmonton, Alberta T5K 2J6
Telephone: 403-427-6212