Varcoe: Another jolt hits Alberta’s power sector

The chief executive of the Alberta Balancing Pool has suddenly left the organization.

And the electricity industry’s watchdog, the Market Surveillance Administrator (MSA), is still searching for a permanent head, seven months after the previous one left.

Now, the official Opposition wants Alberta’s auditor general to delve into the province’s ongoing electricity issues.

United Conservative Party MLAs want the A-G’s office to conduct an audit and tally up the total cost of the NDP’s decisions to phase out coal-fired power plants, subsidize consumer power bills and shoulder financial losses inside the Balancing Pool.

These events — along with legislation introduced last week to prepare Alberta for a new capacity market in electricity — give the impression a whirlwind has touched down in the power sector.

That impression would be right.

Alberta’s electricity industry is caught up in a vortex of change swirling across the sector.

For example, Balancing Pool CEO Bruce Roberts unexpectedly left the government agency earlier this month.

A terse three-sentence statement by the agency provided little insight into his departure. Roberts confirmed “it was my decision to leave” but declined further comment.

Balancing Pool chairman Robert Bhatia wouldn’t discuss the matter, but expects a new CEO to be in place soon.

“We’re working hard on the issues that the Balancing Pool needs to deal with,” he said in an interview. 

The independent agency has been at the epicentre of change within the sector since the Notley government took power in 2015.