Estimated cost of EATL increases 9%

ATCO Electric has raised the estimated cost of building the Eastern Alberta Transmission Line (EATL) project by approximately 9%, from C$1.6bn to C$1.8bn, due to higher costs including increased demand for skilled construction crews.

“We’ve got inflation, and we’ve got increased labor costs, in particular with utilities and in Alberta,” an ATCO spokesperson told TransmissionHub Aug. 26, adding that the province has, “a lot of construction of infrastructure and upgrading to the system occurring right now.”

In addition to the EATL, ATCO Electric recently completed its portion of the Hanna Region Transmission Development project, while work continues on the Central East transmission development project. In addition, its website lists some 130 “current or upcoming transmission projects” that are smaller in scope than the other three projects but which nonetheless place demands on the company’s and the province’s resources.

ATCO Electric also cited an increase in detailed engineering, design and permitting costs, and delays in receiving approval for the project for the higher estimate.

In December 2011, the Alberta government halted the application process pending a review by the Critical Transmission Review Committee appointed by Premier Allison Redford. The additional review by that committee delayed approval of the project until November 2012.

Additional engineering and permitting associated with the 75 miles of alternative routes that the Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC) approved as the final routing on the EATL project also contributed to the cost increase, the company said.

The increased cost estimate was included in a standard “proposal to provide service” (PPS) update provided to the Alberta Electric System Operator (AESO) after the receipt of permits and licenses, the spokesperson said. “It’s a standard update on all transmission projects.”

The 301-mile, 500-kV HVDC transmission line will originate at the Heathfield converter station in the Redwater-Gibbons area northeast of Edmonton, and terminate at the Newell converter station in the Brooks area south of Calgary. The project includes the development of two new converter stations capable of 240-kV and 500-kV transmission.

The EATL, the Western Alberta Transmission Line (WATL), and the Heartland transmission project were all declared “critical transmission infrastructure” (CTI) by the Legislative Assembly of Alberta through Bill 50, passed in 2009 under former Premier Ed Stelmach. The backbone line is being built to add “much needed reinforcement and capacity to Alberta’s electricity system,” ATCO Electric said.

The project is still on schedule for an in-service date at the end of 2014, the spokesperson said.

ATCO Electric is a subsidiary of ATCO Group.