T&D World Magazine
Alberta Electric System Operator Identifies Need for Critical Transmission System Investments

Alberta Electric System Operator Identifies Need for Critical Transmission System Investments

The Alberta Electric Sysstem Operator (AESO) has updated its Long-term Transmission System Plan to address electricity needs via transmission infrastructure projects between 2010 and 2017. AESO President and CEO David Erickson has identified rapid growth in recent years and the lack of “backbone transmission projects” for more than 20 years as the primary reasons for the power grid upgrade.

To elaborate on Erickson’s assessment, the key factors influencing the Plan are:

  • Increasing forecast load growth, averaging three per cent annually over the long term.
  • The large generation construction (11,500 MW is required over the next 20 years to keep up with load growth and to replace retiring generation units.
  • The need to plan and build transmission in advance of generation and intertie developments.
  • Increasing demand to integrate renewable and low-emission sources of electricity such as wind, hydro, biomass and gasification.
  • Increasing the efficiency with which electricity is transmitted and consumed.
  • Enabling a robust, competitive market for electricity. 
Minimizing land-use impacts of transmission.
  • Enabling economic development.
  • Near-term opportunities for lower costs of materials and increased labor availability.
  • Market Demand

The need to upgrade the power grid is rooted in current inefficiencies and over-reliance on decades old electricity generation systems. As a result of inefficiencies in Alberta’s transmission system, $196 million worth of electricity was lost in the form of heat from transmission lines in 2008. Going forward, the new transmission developments will be aimed at unlocking geographic constraints for all forms of electricity generation including “green energy” such as wind, solar, and hydroelectric power.

Five critical transmission infrastructure projects are highlighted in the Plan and have been classified by the AESO as “CTI-Tier 1,” encompassing:

  • Two 500-kV HVDC high-capacity lines from Edmonton to Calgary and Southern Alberta
  • One 500-kV double circuit AC line from the Edmonton area to the Industrial Heartland area (parts of Sturgeon, Strathcona and Lamont counties)
  • Two 500-kV lines to Fort McMurray
  • Reinforcements to strengthen the transmission system in south Calgary, and new wind energy development in southern Alberta, which is currently in the regulatory process.

The CTI-Tier 1 projects carry estimated costs of $7.2 billion. The Plan also includes additional critical transmission infrastructure (CTI-Tier 2) projects, with a current estimated cost of $5.7 billion that are at a less advanced stage of planning. These include upgrades and regional projects. An overview of planned projects is given in the image. Potential projects that will improve Alberta’s interconnections with neighboring provinces and states are also identified within the scope of the Plan. These projects enable imports of power when required and exports of electricity surpluses.

The full transmission infrastructure plan may be viewed at: http://www.aeso.ca/downloads/Long-term_Plan_bookmarked_Final.pdf

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