5 Questions with Tim Eckel on Investing in Saskatchewan to Support Growth and Improve Reliability
October 17, 2016
"Big news" projects like Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) at Boundary Dam and our recently announced Chinook Power Station get a lot of attention. But we're also investing around $1 billion per year to improve infrastructure and reliability across the province.
We recently had a chance to sit down with Tim Eckel, Vice-President of Transmission Services, to talk about these investments and why they are so important to the future of our province.
Why are you talking about projects going on in different areas of the province?
We're trying to get the word out that we're working hard to meet growth and improve power reliability all around the province. We've been putting out regular news releases talking about the work we've been doing. We'll also be running a series of infrastructure investment profiles on our website in the coming months. You can check us out on Facebook and Twitter for announcements about upcoming work in the future.
How does this impact me?
The $1 billion dollars in yearly investments – which accounts for about 42% of your power bill – is being used to renew and grow electrical infrastructure all over Saskatchewan. This includes work on power lines, switching stations, substations and our existing generation fleet. For example, we recently announced that in 2016 over $110 million was spent on growth and reliability improvements in the Lloydminster and North Battleford areas. Customers in those areas will experience better service going forward.
We're doing big stuff too. We also just completed a new 300km power line in Northern Saskatchewan after five years of work. This will help businesses and communities grow in some of the more remote corners of the province.
Why is this work happening now?
We're facing some challenges today. We've seen over 15 per cent growth in demand over the past five years and we expect that to grow by at least one per cent annually for the next five.
We also have an aging system. Most of our system was built between 1950 and 1985 and it's reaching the end of its useful life. As a result, power outages are happening more frequently and lasting longer. So we've got to work on those challenges right now and at the same time, ensure that we have a plan to generate power from cleaner sources to meet new and emerging emissions regulations.
My house has had more outages lately. When are you going to fix my area?
The entire electricity industry recognizes that aging infrastructure is a big issue causing outages. That being said, it's our mission to ensure reliable, sustainable and cost-effective power for all of our customers. We want to make sure people and businesses in Saskatchewan have fewer interruptions to their lives and work. Since we can't do everything at once, we're targeting our work projects so we maximize the greatest benefit, while maintaining our commitment to keeping power cost-effective in Saskatchewan.
What are some other things you are doing to improve reliability?
We have several on-going programs to upgrade infrastructure throughout Saskatchewan. These programs focus on various parts of the province over their five to ten year lifespan.
- Underground Cable Program
- We are renewing or replacing aging underground power lines.
- Transformer Replacement Work
- We are upgrading or replacing aging transformers.
- Rural Rebuild Program
- We relocate and upgrade overhead power lines out of the middle of farmers' fields.
- Vegetation Management Program
- We monitor and trim trees growing too close to power lines so we can prevent outages and minimize the damage from potential wildfires.
- Wood Pole Maintenance Program
- Aging wood poles are inspected and repaired (or replaced).
- Underground Fault Indicator Replacement Program
- We upgrade or replace electrical devices that assist our field technicians in troubleshooting and locating problems in our system.
- Breaker Replacement Program
- We replace obsolete breakers in our switching stations.
- Relay Replacement Program
- Replacing and upgrading protective relays in our stations.
"The $1 billion dollars in yearly investments” which accounts for about 42% of your power bill” is being used to renew and grow electrical infrastructure all over Saskatchewan. This includes work on power lines, switching stations, substations and our existing generation fleet."
"We're facing some challenges today. We've seen over 15 per cent growth in demand over the past five years and we expect that to grow by at least one per cent annually for the next five."
"We want to make sure people and businesses in Saskatchewan have fewer interruptions to their lives and work."