New transmission line brings light to holiday season in southwest B.C.

Man and child putting up holiday LED lights

New transmission line energized, brings power from dams in B.C. Interior

When the holiday lights in the Vancouver area turn on tonight, they'll get a little extra help. A new 500 kilovolt transmission line began delivering energy from where it's generated – at our major hydroelectric facilities on the Peace and Columbia rivers – to the more than 3.2 million people in the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island.

The Interior to Lower Mainland (ILM) transmission line went live at 10:43 a.m. today.

The transmission line will provide a greater supply of clean and reliable energy to southwest B.C., the most populated areas of the province, and where the population and economy are growing rapidly.

Most of our transmission system was built in the early 1970s, and is reaching the limits of its capacity to carry electricity – particularly during the winter months when electricity use peaks. The project, which stretches 247 kilometres from Merritt to Coquitlam, is part of the estimated $2.4 billion a year BC Hydro is spending on capital projects across B.C.

"There haven't been any major upgrades to our bulk transmission system in more than 30 years, and this new line is a vital link for the future," said Bill Bennett, B.C.'s Minister of Energy and Mines, when the line was completed last month. "Demand for power continues to grow and BC Hydro needs to be able to meet that demand and transport electricity safely and efficiently from the places like Mica generating station and the WAC Bennett dam, to major load centres.

"This is just one example of the types of investment BC Hydro is making in the system through its capital plan."

The new line was built through tough and diverse terrain in B.C.'s southern interior. The line crosses mountains, grasslands, major rivers and highways.

We awarded the construction contract for the line in 2011 to Flatiron Graham Joint Venture, and construction began in the spring of 2012.  

To help get the line done on time, our own crews built one of the most challenging sections of the line: a 19-kilometre stretch that crossed two sets of railway tracks, another transmission line and the Fraser River before going up and over a mountain near Hope.

Learn about how our crews completed the Spuzzum section of the line ahead of schedule

We're busy building around B.C.

We also recently hit milestones at two other big projects:

  • The GM Shrum turbine replacement project at the WAC Bennett Dam, which involved refurbishing five generating units at the province's largest facility, was completed more than $100 million under budget.
  • The Mica 5 & 6 project will be completed later this year, within budget. We're adding two new generating units at Mica. When the facility was built in the 1970s, it was built with four generating units and space for two more to be added in the future.