Our transmission system is the essential link that connects homes, farms, businesses and industries to the electricity generated across Alberta.
We serve 85 per cent of Albertans and own more than half of the provincial transmission system. We operate approximately 12,000 kilometres of transmission lines and 280 substations – a network that transports electricity across the province in the blink of an eye.
Our transmission system is enabling the development of a more competitive and sustainable electricity market by connecting Albertans to diverse energy sources such as wind power, solar, and biomass (energy produced from organic waste).
Transmission lines, when interconnected with each other, become high voltage transmission networks or power grids. North America has three major grids: the Western Interconnection, the Eastern Interconnection, and the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) grid.
North America’s electrical grids are under increasing pressure as a result of a lack of investment and growing demand on the system. This demand has been created by a proliferation of new technology that is dependent on electricity as well as population and industrial growth – which is straining electricity systems.
Alberta faces the same pressures. Our population has grown by more than one million people during the last 20 years. The majority of Alberta’s transmission system is more than 30 years old, with only one significant upgrade in the last 20 years. Electricity consumption in Alberta increases annually by the equivalent of adding two cities the size of Red Deer to the electrical grid.
In additional to appliances such as refrigerators, stoves, ovens, freezers, and washers and dryers, the average four-person household in Alberta has 20 “instant on” appliances such as computers, video players, televisions, music devices and cell phone chargers. The increased demand for electricity means that existing transmission facilities need to be enhanced and new facilities built to ensure the electricity will be there when Albertans need it.
Though transmission is the backbone of Alberta’s electricity system, it represents a very small part of the average residential electricity bill in Alberta – about 10 per cent. Despite its relatively small cost, a strong and updated transmission system can significantly improve competition in Alberta’s electricity market, reducing energy costs for consumers and saving them money.
New transmission systems are crucial to enable the great potential for generating electricity from renewable energy. Almost 90 per cent of Alberta’s electricity is generated from coal and natural gas. According to the Alberta Electric System Operator’s (AESO) 2011 Long-Term Plan, there are more than 2,500 megawatts (MW) of proposed generation from wind power waiting to be added to Alberta’s electricity grid by 2020.