September 21st, 2018

City notebook: A city power surge

By Collin Gallant on November 11, 2017.

Following the firing up of Unit 16 power plant in north Medicine Hat, the city power company can now produce about 60 per cent more electricitythan its customers inside the city have ever used at any one time.

And that additional power could be headed stateside.

The city has engaged Rainbow Energy Marketing, a North Dakota-based firm that specializes in selling surplus power from municipal, state and private utility companies in that country.

Last spring, power generation officials announced a full review of changes to the Alberta energy grid and new long-term strategy was coming.

“We will look at how we market energy outside of the city, but on a strategic basis and in the shoulder (spring and fall) seasons especially,” said utility commissioner Cal Lenz. “We’re starting slowly at (marketing power) right now and gauging at how the markets will respond.”

Point No. 1 for city officials discussing Unit 16 is that Alberta regulators green lit the 43-megawatt expansion as a measure to ensure local supply if the main unit at the main power plant was down.

However, there’s always been an implication that export sales would help pay off the $55-million project.

Without changes it would be more difficult on the provincial grid as it moves to a capacity supply market (i.e. longer-term and guaranteed supply contracts). Those rules will be announced in 2018.

The city has traditionally sold power when prices spike and there’s extra capacity. It’s also limited by its status as grandfathered municipal entity. Make too much money and private sector could challenge its monopoly.

In the meantime, the north side unit — which is mostly operated remotely from the main control room — is budgeted to operate about 20 per cent of the time.

Bovine happenings

Earlier this month the News told readers of a move by two union locals in the United Food and Commercial Workers to amalgamate and therefore gain some advantage in private sector bargaining.

That appears to have happened in High River, where UCFW workers held a strike vote in late October and are now considering a new contract offer from Cargill meatpacking plant. The UFCW contract for 2,000 workers at the JBS packing plant in Brooks expires at the end of next month.

Staying with packing plants, two new major slaughterhouses are on the drawing board in Montana.

This week, U.S. trade representatives announced a deal with Chinese retailers to buy US$300 million in beef from the Montana Stockgrowers Association and possibly invest in a new US$100-million plant in the state.

The sales amount to four per cent of the Montana beef trade, according to The Associated Press.

Great Falls residents are debating a proposal by Lethbridge-based Friesen Feed to build a slaughterhouse there that would reportedly employ 3,000 workers.

If either moves ahead it would become the first commercial beef plant to operate in Montana in about 20 years.

On the calendar

Word just arrived that the grand reopening of the theatre at the Medicine Hat Public Library — after a year of construction — will be held on Nov. 24 … Also, Christmas events are coming in daily it seems, so watch this space for yuletide goings on.

A look ahead

This week’s public service committee hearing will take up the matter of rebalancing the transit budget for 2018 after council reversed budget cuts earlier this fall. The switch back to previous routes is still planned for Nov. 27.

100 years ago

Overseas news boomed with the “complete defeat of the Germans at the hands of the British” in Flanders, the News reported on Nov. 11, 1917, and a counter offensive at Passchendaele had been repulsed.

Local casualties were listed as Cpl. A.M. Davidson, of Sixth Ave. (died); Pte. L.D. Angle, 19, of Fourth St., shot in elbow; and Pte. H. Milnes, a ranch hand at Chappice Lake, brother on Ash Avenue, shot shoulder and head.

Another breaking story was heavy fighting in Moscow between the provisional government and the Red Guard.

Prime Minister Borden would travel to Halifax to open the union government’s election campaign.

T.C. Webber, a suspected agitator with the Industrial Workers of the World was arrested in the city and held on charges of espionage laid in Butte, Mont.

Two men, one 19 and one 22, were sentenced to a year of hard labour for stealing four bottles of liquor from the CPR station in Nemiscan.

Collin Gallant covers city politics and a variety of topics for the News. Reach him at 403-528-5664 or via email at

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