BC Hydro IRP recommends two transmission upgrades

The draft 2013 integrated resource plan (IRP) for BC Hydro calls for reinforcement of two existing 500-kV transmission facilities to meet growing demand in the Canadian province of British Columbia, and includes an evaluation of pre-building transmission to accommodate clusters of renewable generation resources.

BC Hydro was ordered to release the IRP, consisting of eight chapters and 72 appendices, by the Minister of Energy and Mines Bill Bennett on Aug. 23, following its submission to the provincial government three weeks earlier. The draft IRP includes recommended actions to meet an expected 40% increase in the province’s electricity demand over the next 20 years while keeping rates affordable, according to the document.

“Predicting how much electricity B.C. will need over the next 20 years is a difficult challenge, particularly with resource industries like liquefied natural gas and mining positioned for the largest expansion since the days of W.A.C. Bennett,” Minister Bennett said in a statement accompanying the release. W.A.C. Bennett was British Columbia’s 25th premier and served from 1952 to 1972.

The recommendations include moving forward with reinforcing the existing Shrum-Williston-Kelly Lake 500-kV transmission lines. Three parallel 500-kV transmission lines that are part of the northern transmission system transmit power from the Gordon M. Shrum (GMS) generating station at WAC Bennett Dam on the Peace River through the Prince George region to connect with the Interior-to-Lower Mainland System near Clinton, B.C.

The GMS station supplies about 24% of all of BC Hydro’s installed generation capacity.

“Modern turbine design will provide an additional 177 GwH of energy annually with the same water usage,” according to the utility’s website. The existing and new resources are expected to exceed the available transfer capacity and, in order to provide adequate incremental transfer capabilities, those pathways need to be reinforced, the company said.

Non-wire upgrades are also contemplated and include the addition of shunt compensation at the Williston and Kelly Lake substations and enhancing the series compensation at Kennedy and McLeese series capacitor stations. The shunt compensation is expected to add 580 MW to 650 MW to the total transfer capability, while the enhanced series compensation is expected to add 630 MW to 750 MW of capacity, the company said.

The cost to complete further study work on the project over the next five years is estimated to be C$5m, with a total cost estimate for the project to be developed when the study work is complete. The reinforcements are to be available by FY 2024, according to the IRP.

The IRP also calls for reinforcing the South Peace transmission network to meet expected load growth. That recommendation calls for advance reinforcement of the 500-kV transmission line from Prince George to Terrace, which included development of three new series capacity stations and improvements to existing substations.

The recently approved Dawson Creek/Chetwynd Area transmission project will enhance the transmission capacities in the Dawson Creek and Groundbirch sub-regions, according to the IRP.

“Continued load growth in those and other areas encompassing the South Peace region indicate further regional transmission reinforcements are required,” BC Hydro said, noting that it must continue to advance its current regional planning activity to confirm the preferred regional capacity addition alternative following Dawson Creek/Chetwynd Area project. The South Peace upgrades are to be available by FY 2020.

The IRP also evaluated the potential for pre-building transmission to serve potential clusters of renewable generation.

The utility studied nine regions in British Columbia that had the highest potential for clean or renewable generation density, based on the premise that pre-building new bulk transmission could result in a more cost-effective transmission system development with a reduced environmental footprint.

The analysis did indicate the potential for “somewhat reduced environmental footprints as a result of optimal transmission configurations,” according to the document. However, the analysis revealed only a marginal financial benefit associated with developing clusters to meet customer demand. In addition, the analysis noted significant uncertainty over which resource options will ultimately be developed. Accordingly, BC Hydro will consider transmission advancement for generation clusters at such time as projects in the studied cluster regions are being bid, according to the IRP.

In addition to transmission expansion, the IRP includes recommendations for conservation using demand-side management; terminating 32 energy purchase agreements for generation projects that are in default; building Site C, a proposed third dam and hydroelectric generating station on the Peace River in northeast British Columbia; and Investigating the acquisition of gas-fired generation to manage incremental capacity needs for the growth of the province’s LNG industry.

Consultations with stakeholders, First Nations, and the public will take place from Sept. 3 to Oct. 18, and will provide the opportunity for comments on changes that have been made to draft IRP since the initial draft was released for public consultation in May. Following those consultations, BC Hydro will have until Nov. 15 to re-submit the IRP to the British Columbia government for its consideration.

“Our population is growing, our economy is expanding and new technologies are advancing every day,” Minister Bennett’s statement said. “Through the IRP process, BC Hydro is planning now to meet the province’s future electricity needs.”