The Canadian Alberta Electric System Operator (AESO) has filed for a $300 million reinforcement to strengthen the northwestern area of the provincial power grid by 2009. This major project follows on the heels of other approved and planned transmission system enhancements that will see a total of about $1 billion in investments to strengthen Alberta’s transmission system. This investment includes reinforcement of the "backbone" of the power grid between Edmonton and Calgary, strengthening the system in southwestern Alberta, and planning enhancements for the cities of Edmonton and Calgary, and the southeast region of the province.

“These projects and plans, representing nearly $1 billion in investment in Alberta’s power grid are critical steps the AESO is taking toward enhancing reliability and building a robust transmission system that supports the continued economic success of the province,” says Neil Millar, the AESO’s vice President of transmission.

“Our comprehensive plans will see strategic investments to strengthen Alberta’s power grid during the next 10 years to ensure ongoing delivery of reliable electricity for all Albertans,” he added. “It’s the AESO’s job to make sure the required transmission facilities are in place where and when they are needed so that reliable and cost-effective delivery of power continues to meet growing demands in all areas of the province and to facilitate Alberta’s competitive power market.”

The estimated $1 billion in transmission projects would add about $2 on the wires portion of an average residential customer’s monthly bill. These costs are not included on the bill until the facilities are in service.

The AESO developed a staged approach for its preferred option to reinforce the northwest grid after extensive consultation with market participants, and load and generation customers in the region. During its consultation, the AESO developed a number of concepts which were evaluated against reliability and technical criteria, financial analysis and future flexibility to accommodate changing conditions in the region.

“We used a staged approach to this transmission development to ensure that we are prudently and effectively taking care of the immediate, medium and long-term needs of the region,” Millar added. “There is always some level of uncertainty with respect to when and where new generation and load might locate, and so our plans must be flexible enough to ensure that we can accommodate anticipated future scenarios reliably.”

After much evaluation and consultation with area stakeholders, the preferred option was chosen because it:

  • is the most effective solution to address load growth.
  • delivers the best operational performance under a broad range of situations that could evolve in the area with respect to generation development and changes in load.
  • allows for the elimination of between $35 and $45 million in annual transmission must-run payments which are contracts held with area generators to provide power in the absence of adequate transmission lines serving the area.

The first phase of the transmission development includes adding about $33 million in new transformers and capacitor banks by 2007, and building four new transmission lines and associated equipment for an investment of about $263 million by 2009. The second phase of the development is to have a right-of-way acquired, at an estimated cost of $2.5 million, for future transmission developments in the region by 2014. While the 2014 facilities were described in the need application, the AESO is only requesting approval for the right-of-way purchase at this time.