Canada

Canada

United States: Critical transmission in slow lane - Alberta forced to wait for upgrade

A planned 240 kV loop designed to integrate another 2700 MW of wind generation in southern Alberta is one of five critical grid projects the Canadian province is going to need between now and 2017, says the Alberta Electric System Operator (AESO) in its newly released long-term transmission plan.

But the project is unlikely to benefit from recently tabled legislation to speed up the permitting process. The regulatory procedure for new transmission in Alberta is split into two stages, with the AESO first applying to the Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC) for a ruling on the need for a new line. Once the need is approved, the local transmission company has to get approval for its specific route. Last month, however, the provincial government introduced a bill that would allow it to determine the need, thereby avoiding what has become a lengthy step in the often-controversial transmission approvals process.

Alberta energy Minister Mel Knight says the change will ensure reinforcements to the province's ageing, congested and inefficient grid get built in a timely manner. "It is time to upgrade our existing electricity transmission system. The longer we wait, the greater the cost and the greater the risk that Albertans may lose the electricity service they rely on and expect," he says. The need application for the 240 kV loop project, however, was filed in December and a public hearing was scheduled to begin June 22. The AESO's Ally Taylor says the project "will continue under the current regulatory process."

The five most critical projects identified in the long-term plan carry a price tag of C$8.1 billion. It also includes another C$6.4 billion in projects that are at a less advanced stage of planning. The upgrades being considered for the south will cost an estimated C$2.45 billion, up from C$1.83 billion when they were originally announced last year.

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