BC Hydro spends $200 million in the East Kootenay

Five-year investment includes updates to transmission and distribution systems in the region.

Last Wednesday, Greg Reimer, BC Hydro’s executive vice-president of transmission and distribution, stopped by to talk about local initiatives in the area.

Reimer talked about the changes that the Crown corporation has faced as power demands continue to grow. He said in the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s, BC Hydro had a relatively new capacity.

“Here we are, 50 odd years later and the system is aging and the province is growing,” he said. “So what we’re doing is really investing in our system. In order to do that, we’re spending a lot of money on the transmission and distribution system in North America.”

The company is planning to spend $1.4 billion on the transmission and distribution. Last year BC Hydro spent $1.4 billion as well — the year before it was $1.2 billion.

“We have a 10 year, $10 billion capital plan,” he said.

He said they are seeing load growth throughout the province. Some areas of the province are growing at different paces.

“We’ve done a lot of investment here in the East Kootenays in the last five years,” he said. “We’ve invested about $200 million in the distribution system here in the last five years.”

He noted some of the projects around the area.

The Columbia Valley transmission project, which is a transmission line between Invermere and Golden, was completed in 2013.

Hydro has also done substantial upgrades to some of the substations in Cranbrook, Golden and Radium.

He said one of the important measures they look to as a transmission and distribution business group is BC Hydro’s system reliability.

“So how reliable is our system for our customers, what’s our customer experience?” he said.

The reliability numbers for Cranbrook are quite good, he said.

“They’re better than our system average, so our system is performing pretty well here.”

He said the system has about 10 years worth of growth left on the system in this area.

“So as economic development takes hold and more development happens we’ll be able to meet that development fairly easily,” he said.

Reimer also mentioned Powerex, a subsidiary of BC Hydro that trades in surplus energy with Alberta. A 500 kV link passes near Cranbrook.

“The profits from that are used to lower electricity prices for our customers in B.C.,” he said.

BC Hydro is also replacing power poles.

“We’ve got an active program with test and treat,” he said.

“This last year we replaced 12,000 poles throughout British Columbia. I believe in the Cranbrook area we’re going to replace 250 poles this year.”

He noted the cost to replace 250 poles is about $2 million and usually necessitates power outages.

“We just ask that our customers are aware that we’re taking maintenance outages in order to keep the system running when we need the system to run,” he said.

Reimer added that the company works with customers in local communities to give adequate notice about the outages.