The Canadian transmission landscape is growing and is set for significant expansion over the next few years. Our work on large projects means that Bennett Jones is at the forefront of this exciting area that is filled with opportunities (and challenges).
In Alberta, there are four transmission lines in the midst of the regulatory approval process at the Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC). These projects are the EPCOR Distribution Ltd./AltaLink Management Ltd. Heartland Transmission Project (Heartland), ATCO Electric's Eastern Alberta Transmission Line (EATL) project, the AltaLink Western Alberta Transmission Line (WATL) project, and the ATCO Electric Hanna Region Transmission Development (HRTD). Bennett Jones is lead counsel on both the EATL and HRTD applications, and we are actively following all matters relating to the WATL and Heartland projects.
EATL, WATL and Heartland have all been designated as Critical Transmission Infrastructure (CTI) under Alberta's Electric Statutes Amendment Act. Projects designated as CTI have been determined by the government of Alberta to be needed and in the public interest. However, on October 21, 2011, the AUC issued correspondence advising that it was suspending all three applications at the request of the government of Alberta to allow the government time to consider its overall approach to critical infrastructure. Subsequent to the release of the AUC's October 21, 2011, correspondence, the government clarified that the Heartland project is not suspended, and as such is proceeding.
EATL had been expected to be heard by the AUC beginning on January 16, 2012. Bennett Jones is lead counsel for this application. EATL is a 500 kV high voltage direct current transmission line, approximately 487 km in length, between the Gibbons-Redwater area northeast of Edmonton and the Brooks area southeast of Calgary. This transmission line includes the construction of two AC/DC converter stations at each end of the line. EATL has an estimated project cost of $1.6 billion.
WATL is a 500 kV HVDC transmission line with an estimated project cost of $1.4 billion. It has an approximate length of 347 km and is proposed to run through the Edmonton-Red Deer-Calgary corridor from the vicinity of the existing Keephills and Genesee generating units west of Edmonton to a southern terminal substation at or in the vicinity of the existing Langdon 102S substation east of Calgary. There would be two AC/DC converter stations at each end of the line. The AUC hearing for the WATL project had been scheduled to begin on November 7, 2011.
Heartland involves a joint application by AltaLink and EPCOR for approximately 66 km of new 500 kV double-circuit transmission line from the south side of Edmonton to a new substation in the Heartland Industrial Region north of Edmonton. Heartland was heard by the AUC in May/June 2011. Bennett Jones actively participated in the AUC proceeding.
Heartland is unique in that, if approved, it would involve the construction of the highest transmission line towers to date in Alberta. In addition, the transmission line could run through a transmission utility corridor within the city of Edmonton for approximately 20 km. Concerns raised by the potentially impacted residents resulted in AltaLink and EPCOR proposing an underground option for the portion of the route that runs through the transmission utility corridor, though there are concerns about the cost and operational constraints of such an option. Interestingly, there are currently no underground 500 kV double-circuit transmission lines in Canada, and few in the world that are the length being proposed.
The AUC's decision was anticipated to be released on October 24, 2011. After the AUC's October 21, 2011, decision to suspend the Heartland hearing, and the subsequent clarification from the government of Alberta that Heartland has not been suspended, it is now anticipated that the AUC's decision will be released on November 1, 2011.
ATCO Electric's HRTD has not been designed as a CTI, and thus is not subject to the AUC's October 21, 2011, suspension letter.
HRTD is set to be heard by the AUC beginning on November 14, 2011. Bennett Jones is lead counsel on HRTD. The HRTD project involves an application for approximately 250 km of new 240 kV double-circuit transmission line in addition to approximately 110 km of new 140 kV transmission line in an area northeast of Calgary. Portions of this proposed project cross areas of native fescue grasses, which have been included in provincial conservation plans.
In Ontario, there are a number of transmission lines that will be constructed over the next few years. For example, Hydro One is constructing the 500 kV, 180 km Bruce-Milton Line, which extends from Kincardine to Milton. The Bruce-Milton Line is anticipated to be in-service by late 2012. Moreover, the Ontario Energy Board (OEB) recently asked companies to file an expression of interest for the construction of the East-West Tie Line (which is a proposed 400 km line from Northeast to Northwest Ontario). The OEB will commence the process to select the proponent for the East-West Tie Line after the release of the Ontario Power Authority's (OPA) Economic Connection Test (ECT). At this time, there is no scheduled release date for the ECT. According to the OPA, the East-West Tie Line should be developed via a new 230 kV double-circuit overhead line with a target in-service date of 2017.
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