BC Hydro preparing final IRP outlining transmission needs

Officials at BC Hydro are incorporating comments received from members of the public, First Nations, and technical experts into a final version of the integrated resource plan (IRP), in preparation for sumitting the document to the provincial government for approval on Nov. 15.

The draft 2013 IRP was released for final comments in August following incorpation of comments received during the spring and summer of 2012. The draft IRP includes recommended actions to meet an expected 40% increase in the electricity demand in the Canadian province of British Columbia 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,” Bill Bennett, Minster of Energy and Mines,  said in an Aug. 23 statement accompanying the release of the draft IRP. W.A.C. Bennett was British Columbia’s 25th premier and served from 1952 to 1972.

To meet the growing need for electricity, the draft IRP recommendaed 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, called for reinforcement of two existing 500-kV transmission facilities and included an evaluation of pre-building transmission to accommodate clusters of renewable generation resources.

Non-wire upgrades were also contemplated and included 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 IRP also called for reinforcing the South Peace transmission network to meet expected load growth. That recommendation called 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.

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.

In addition to transmission expansion, the draft IRP included 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.

The final IRP will include comments on the draft IRP that were submitted during the final consultation period, which ran Sept. 3 through Oct. 18.