Regional power line upgrading coming

More than $200 million in upgrades have been earmarked for the Red Deer region in a long-term draft transmission plan that calls for $13.5 billion in power line spending in Alberta over the next 10 years.

More than $200 million in upgrades have been earmarked for the Red Deer region in a long-term draft transmission plan that calls for $13.5 billion in power line spending in Alberta over the next 10 years.

The Alberta Electric System Operator plan released on Thursday reaffirms the need for significant investment in the province’s transmission infrastructure, including four controversial critical transmission infrastructure projects that would cost $5.5 billion. Among them is a 500-kilovolt power line running from Edmonton to Calgary on a route expected to run just west of Rimbey. Another 500-kilovolt line is also proposed from Edmonton to Calgary on a Hanna-Castor corridor.

Critics have argued the lines are not needed and will, ultimately, be used to export power to the U.S. AESO and provincial government officials have consistently denied that.

AESO president and CEO David Erickson says in a media release that electricity demand is expected to grow 32 per cent over the next 10 years.

Annual peak demand growth is expected to increase by more than three per cent over the next two decades.

“The fact of the matter is that transmission capacity has not kept pace with load growth or generation development in the last decade and, as a result, we need to invest in upgrades today in order to maintain reliability of the system, now and into the future,” says Erickson.

The report also indicates the system is showing its age in the Central Region, where electricity demand is expected to grow from 1,505 megawatts to 2,251 megawatts by 2020.

“Load growth in the Red Deer and Didsbury areas will result in overloading the existing 138-kilovolt systems,” says the draft plan.

Shan Bhattacharya, AESO vice-president of transmission, said on Friday that electricity demand in the Red Deer area is growing rapidly and already shortcomings have emerged.

“At present, at the Joffre plant we are not able to take the full production in the plant into the grid because of congestion in our existing system,” said Bhattacharya.

About 50 megawatts of power from the Joffre petrochemical complex can’t be used because lines are already overloaded.

To fix area problems, AESO’s preferred option to upgrade the infrastructure would see old 138-kilovolt lines decommissioned between Wetaskiwin and Lacombe and a stretch from Red Deer to Innisfail.

New 240-kilovolt substations would be built at Didsbury, Ponoka and Innisfail, substations would be upgraded at Benalto and Lacombe, and about 150 km of new and rebuilt line added in a $204-million project.

An application has been submitted to the Alberta Utilities Commission, which is expected to make a decision by the end of the year. If the commission agrees with the proposal, AltaLink would be assigned to outline what needs to be built and where.

Construction would be built in phases over five years, likely beginning in the Didsbury area, where existing transmission lines are very old.

pcowley@bprda.wpengine.com