Little opposition expected to new BC transmission line

BC Hydro and municipal officials in British Columbia’s Robson Valley expect little opposition to a new transmission line proposed to connect renewable energy projects in the area, in part because the energy producers will shoulder the majority of the project’s costs.

“The community has been a tremendous supporter of this initiative,” Doug Little, BC Hydro’s vice president of energy procurement and economic development, told TransmissionHub on May 24. “They’re very receptive. In fact, they’re very strong supporters and promoters of this type of development.”

“It is a big deal for the whole [Robson Valley] corridor,” Mike Frazier, mayor of the village of McBride’s, told TransmissionHub on May 25. “It falls into our economic development strategies and our plans here. With consistent, stable, clean energy, promoting your area is a lot easier.”

Under negotiations announced May 22, three independent power producers that have proposed new hydro and biomass facilities in the area would pay the cost of building an 85-km (53-mile), 138-kV line from Valemount to the village of McBride and pay for a new substation in McBride, while BC Hydro will contribute C$50m (US$48.6m) for required system upgrades at the Valemount substation.

BC Hydro officials say the project’s benefits will extend beyond the independent power producers.

“We’re expecting a significant increase in reliability for the Robson Valley region and McBride” from the new line, Little said, adding that the 25-kV line that currently serves McBride “is basically completely maxed out.”

Frazier said, “Power production and stable, consistent, reliable power here is the big thing because we don’t have it a lot of times,” adding that the community of Dome Creek, about 88 kilometers (55 miles) north of McBride, was without power for 200 hours in November.

“This is a big step for us,” Frazier said. “The door’s open for the independent power producers to negotiate their energy purchase agreements and the agreement to build the line. If they want to get it going and get it running quickly, that’s the way it’ll be.”

He said, “Investment in green energy has been kind of stagnant. Without an energy purchase agreement and without this line being announced, there was no need for investment.” 

Nobody would consider investing without the infrastructure in place, he said. “Now they do, so this is a big deal for us.”

BC Hydro’s next step is to “negotiate with the clean energy producers the specific agreements that will bring the project to life,” Little said.

Technical transmission studies will then be performed to determine specific design and type of equipment needed.

“It is still early on in the process, and we don’t have an estimate of the overall cost of the initiative” or a timeline, Little said.