12/07/2012 11:59 EST | Updated 02/06/2013 05:12 EST

Commission approves route of AltaLink's Edmonton-Calgary transmission line

CALGARY - The Alberta Utilities Commission has approved the route of a $1.5 billion transmission line that will run between Edmonton and Calgary.

The Western Alberta Transmission line will run north-south about 350 kilometres from west of Edmonton to an area just east of Calgary, in the Langdon area.

AltaLink Management Ltd., a subsidiary of SNC-Lavalin, (TSX:SNC), will build the line and SNC-Lavalin is expected to perform the engineering, procurement and construction portion of the project.

Commission spokesman Jim Law says more than 60 per cent of the approved route parallels existing lines, minimizing the project’s visual and environmental effects and disturbance of land.

AltaLink president and C-E-O Scott Thon says the countless hearings and meetings, dozens of witnesses, and thousands of documents and exhibits were worth it.

He says AltaLink hopes to switch on the line in the spring of 2015, with shovels in the ground early next year.

"This is the critical backbone in our electricity system and we're getting a chance to make sure that it maintains its reliability," Thon said.

"And we really want to thank the landowners who really stepped up and engaged with us. This is a lot of work and it's something that's important for our province."

Thon says the new line will add about $1.50 a month to the average residential power bill when it comes into service.

But he adds it will also result in about a $3 a month savings to bills by making the grid more efficient while driving increased competition in the generation market.

Critics of the line argued it would have no benefit to Albertans and was mainly being built to export power to the U.S.

In 2009, the Alberta government said the line is considered critical to the province's transmission infrastructure.

The Alberta Utilities Commission is an independent, quasi-judicial agency of the provincial government.