BC Hydro has updated its North Coast Electrification initiative to increase the power it can transmit through its 500 kilo-volt transmission line of 450 kilometres from Prince George to Terrace.

The project will transmit power between the Glenannan substation near Fraser Lake and the Skeena substation in Terrace, covering 270 kilometres of transmission line to meet Northwest B.C.’s demands with clean, reliable electricity and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The 270 kilometres breaksdown to 130 kilometres of transmission line between Genannan and Telkawa substations. And the other 140 kilometres of transmission line will be added between Telkawa and Skeena substations.

Additionally, this project involves twinning the existing 500 kilo-volt transmission line between the substations, expanding the Skeena substation, and building two expanded or new capacitor stations. The two new capacitor stations will be in Palling, west of Burns Lake, and Walcott, near Telkwa.

A capacitor station increases the capacity of electricity transmitting through the transmission line in a cost-effective, reliable, and safe way by boosting the electricity it can carry.

BC Hydro also updated that there will be thermal upgrades to their existing transmission lines to carry the same amount of electricity as the new lines. The new thermal coating is required to withstand the heat generated from transmitting the 500 kilo-volt of electricity. It’s also a precautionary measure to avoid any kind of fire hazards.

The existing transmission lines have the capacity to carry 287 kilo-volt of electricity.

Debra Lamash, BC Hydro stakeholder engagement advisor, stated in a letter on Jan. 24 that the project is in it’s planning phase and is scheduled to be completed in 2032.

Mora Scott, BC Hydro spokesperson said, “We are in the process of constructing the capacitor stations. The Saranovich capacitor station near Vanderhoof and Palling near Burns Lake capacitor station sites are further advanced and we are clearing at the Walcott near Telkwa capacitor station site.”

“We initiated consultation with First Nations and engagement with stakeholders in September 2022 and consultation and engagement will be ongoing through project planning and construction. Early engagement with First Nations and Indigenous leaders aligns with our commitment to co-design the project assessment and explore Indigenous co-ownership of the proposed new transmission lines, as well other means of Indigenous participation,” Scott said.

“We held our first round of community open houses in May 2023 and the second round is planned for March 2024. We engaged with local and regional governments, property owners, other land and resource users, and other interested parties. Our current focus is on identifying routes for the Glenannan to Terrace and Prince George to Glenannan projects,” Scott said.

The Crown corporation first began talking about the North Coast Electrification initiative nearly 10 years ago, but then shelved it in 2016, saying there was no longer the demand for its construction. Forecast demand changed in early 2019 leading to the decision to revive construction plans.

Through K’uul Power, formed last year, 11 First Nations said they’ll assist each other in exploring and developing the economic and other benefits to come from equity participation with the public and private sectors. Locally the Frist Nations involved are Tsil Kaz Koh First Nation, Nee Tahi Bunh and Wet’suwet’en First Nation.

With the massive LNG Canada liquefied natural gas project already under construction in Kitimat and a prospective liquefied natural gas project, Ksi Lisims LNG, off the coast from the Nass Valley, have already signalled their interest in using BC Hydro power.

LNG Canada’s two production “trains” now under construction will use natural gas to compress natural gas into a super-cold liquid form for export but it is now talking to BC Hydro about using electricity if it decides to add two more trains.

A First Nations stake in BC Hydro’s planned new line would continue the growing economic presence of First Nations in large-scale regional industrial projects.

BC Hydro did sign substantial economic benefits agreements providing money and jobs to First Nations when it built the 344 kilometres long Northwest transmission line running north of the Skeena Substation in the last decade.

Power to be fed through the beefed up 500 kilo volt transmission line from west of Prince George’s Williston substation into various BC Hydro hydroelectric projects, including its multi-billion Site C project in the northeast.

~With files from Rod Link