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Pan-canadian power grid



Summary of studies

This National power grid project is analogous to the role played by the railway at the time of Confederation.





1- Introduction

Since 1867, Canadians first carried out a railway bond to the Pacific Ocean. Along this railway, we saw the beginning, then the multiplying of the whole of the communities and the economic activities which constitute Canada today. Once again, during the Fifties and Sixties, the Government of Canada printed quite a Canadian character from the Atlantic to the Pacific with the simultaneous realization of the road network called the “Trans-Canadian” Highway and of the St-Lawrence Seaway, then also ensured itself to set up the necessary incentives for the realization of a network of pipelines which become of obvious strategic importance. Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and Health Insurance also add to this Canadian Character. What would have become of the economy and Canadian political coherence without these achievements of scale?

In 2013 wouldn’t it be convenient to think again about the realization of a very new infrastructure of transport, about the transport of the commodity becoming more and more in request, that is to say electric power itself ? Such a project of a power grid of 735 000 kV lines proves itself very much within the range of current technology and is even of a modest scope compared to the past Canadian achievements. The repercussions would be immense as well as on the provinces and Canada economy as on the environment.

Over the last recent years, the Fraser Institute, the C D Howe Institute and, in June 2012, the Canadian Academy of Engineering have all studied the project and were very favorable. The Canadian Academy of Engineering study was the most detailed one.

2- Project Objectives

The realization of a ” pan-Canadian ” transport system of energy, has many objectives, one of which could be the development of new hydroelectric sites of a scale of more than some 35 000 MW currently isolated from the market, the reduction of the emissions of gas for greenhouse purposes (GHG) by the substitution of a source of clean and durable energy to the existing 30 000 MW of thermal power stations across Canada and, finally, the improvement of the energy safety of the whole country, our Canada. It includes the Alberta province, the only one without a power public service, where there are some 110 private thermal powerhouses of all types for a grid of some 10 000 MW. Moreover, several provinces would benefit of a much lower cost of electricity.

3- Development and Economy

The potential producing provinces would be especially Newfoundland, Quebec, Nova Scotia and Manitoba, although a very important hydroelectric potential seems to be available in western Canada too. Indeed, for a fast overview, the already studied hydroelectric potential of Canada is at the least of about 30 000 to 35 000 MW. Another profitable 100 000 Mw is still available to be studied across the country. The majority of these projects remain however unexploited since decades because of the distance to the centers of consumption, mainly the south Ontario and Maritimes Province. In southern Ontario, more than 9 000 MW would be needed to replace the thermal power stations alone. In Alberta, some 10 000 MW of thermal power could be replaced too. In Saskatchewan, 3 000 MW of thermal power could also be replaced.

Moreover, the regions through which the network would be located could provide additional opportunities, such as the implementation of wind farms and smaller hydroelectric projects, where conditions are most favorable.

4- Environment

A fast overview of opportunities present in the whole of Canada, in the summer 2011, excluding the power stations operated by private companies for their own industrial needs, highlights the fact that a potency of a few 25 000 MW was then produced by coal-fired, fuel oil and gas power stations for a total of GHG of about 150 M tons of GHG or approximately 20 % of Canadian emissions estimated at about 725 M tons yearly. These powerhouses are used 60 % of the time or load-factor.

The elimination of these emissions constitutes an important step towards the long-term targets of the Government of Canada to achieve the goals of the late protocol of Kyoto or any other treaty to come. Therefore, hydroelectricity, the wind and the tidal energy are obviously the most promising green and renewable energies needed and these, require a national power grid.

5- Characteristics of the “pan-Canadian” Power Grid

Several different technologies could be used to build this pan-Canadian power grid, even simultaneously, on different parts of this grid. However, to achieve a realistic and proven first conceptual study, we will refer here to the Hydro-Quebec’s 735 000 kV technology which has been continuously tried and updated over the last fifty years and whose cost, performances and characteristics are well-known.

Each one of the power line included in this study had to meet three objectives: to link a new power project to a grid disserved by an equivalent thermal power, and linking together two provincial grids in the same time.

To carry out this bond between the needs and the natural energy available, estimates are that some 15 000 km the length of the transport system of lines 735 000 kV would be necessary, that is to say a little more than the current network of Hydro-Quebec, which is 11 400 km. The cost of such a network, by holding account of the unitary price of about 1.45 M $ 2011 all included, would thus be about 22 billion Canadian dollars of the year 2011, excluding the switching stations. This cost would obviously be distributed over some two decades since it is necessary to simultaneously build the hydroelectric power stations.

The realism of such a project can be demonstrated by the interest of Americans to do the same south of the border. To this effect, an article in the magazine “Forbes” of 24 November 2008, page 108, “an interstate “Highway System for Energy”, network estimated at 60 billion forecast for the year 2030, based on a voltage of 765 000 Kv. Moreover, four days after his oath, on January the 24 th, 2009, President Obama made of this power grid his first engagement for a first phase of 3 000 miles of lines.

6- The American Energy Market

It is no more acceptable for Quebec to be so obsessed with the American energy market where one has to compete with the lower costs of natural gas and shales gas while Ontario and the Maritimes provinces are deserved by very expansive thermal, coal, wind and nuclear productions.

On one hand, the historical market of Hydro-Quebec, the north-eastern United States, where Hydro sells 75% of its exports, seems definitely less interesting than before. Many experts claim that La Romaine Complex will be operated at a loss. Added to the “slowdown” of the economic situation of the United States are major factors such as the unbridled arrival of the shale gas market and the relatively low price of natural gas; a situation that apparently should last at least another two decades. In this context, Hydro-Quebec does not appear at all assured of a reasonable price of at least 8 cents/KWh in the American market, for the energy from La Romaine Complex. It has been recently accepted that shale gas powerhouse pollute as much as coal fired plant.

Moreover, on the American side, deviousness goes so far as to pretend that hydroelectricity from Quebec is not a green energy … which will eventually circumscribe the market for pollution credits. For example, at a cost of $30/t for GHG (greenhouse gas), these pollution credits will represent in a few years an additional cost of nearly 4 cents/KWh that Hydro-Quebec could then add to its prices while remaining competitive. And a GHG cost of $90/t for 2020 has even been forecasted!

Finally, under a bill recently introduced by Representative Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico, in the fall 2012, only United States sourced hydro-electricity would now be recognized as clean, and not hydro-electricity imported to the United States. Are we really obliged to submit to all this nonsense? Do other export markets exist?

7- The Canadian energy market: market of the future?

Canada wide, an aging inventory of highly polluting thermal power plants totaling about 30,000 MW needs to be replaced or retained as reserve capacity to meet peak demand. As it happens, Ontario-Hydro which is already struggling with an aging collection of nuclear plants, some even at the end of their useful life, has also to decommission over the long term highly polluting thermal plants producing some 9,000 MW or reserve them for short high demand periods.

Exasperated by a bid of 13.4 billion dollars per reactor presented by Atomic Energy of Canada in the summer of 2009, the Government of Ontario signed, on 20 January 2010, an agreement worth 7 billion dollars for a 2,500 MW wind power generation capacity operating at best 30% of the time. To develop new alternatives, Ontario Power Generation also signed an agreement to pay as much as 52.5 Cts/kWh for wind energy and even up to 80 cts/kWh for solar energy, agreements that had to be cancelled some weeks later at a very high cost.

In addition, the National Post reported on 23 November 2011 that the cost of electricity, already twice as high as in Quebec, will have to be doubled to allow for investing 33 billion dollars on the reconstruction of nuclear centrals, 27 billion dollars to add two more reactors and 12 billion dollars for an energy conservation plan; while aiming to close coal plants that are among the dirtiest in North America. A program of 88 billions of dollars foreseen on a short term could be avoided for lot less expansive alternatives based on this national power grid.

We are also facing difficulties in the Maritimes where the reconstruction of the Point Lepreau nuclear plant, at a cost already of over four billion dollars, only adds to the situation.

Then at last, why not look at Canada and, for once, as part of a massive and long term vision? Several provinces could probably achieve substantial savings on the cost of electricity in this more “Canadian” approach that would however rigorously respect provincial jurisdictions.

8- Leadership and execution

All told, the Quebec government should perhaps reconsider the proposed pan-Canadian energy network that has been floating since 2007, especially since it would more than likely be the prime contractor since its patented 735,000 KV technology would possibly be used along with suppliers, manufacturers and engineers from Quebec, particularly because more than 66 % of the national network would still ultimately be located in Quebec with some 8 600 Km of lines added. Such a network must be achieved through progressive additions to the existing network; it would be illusory to think the way to achieve several completely separates power grids.

Simply doubling the existing Hydro-Quebec network in two decades would be required to link networks from Edmonton to Newfoundland, making Canada a cleaner country than required by the Kyoto agreement or any foreseen agreement. There would certainly be for more than 25 billion dollar worth of contracts for our companies in Quebec, which would possibly represent one of the most profitable benefits of the Plan du Nord itself where a potential of 20 000 MW already profitable is still ignored in the plan.

Even if it has to remain of provincial jurisdiction, it would be convenient that the Government of Canada support the realization of this “pan-Canadian” energy transport system, in partnership with all the implied provinces. The Government of Canada could take part in the financing of such a network initially within the framework of its programs relating to environmental protection. It could also finance this project in proportion to the taxes and taxation collected from the investments of the project and numerous hydroelectric projects that the construction of the network would not fail to provoke.

However, the article 92 of the Confederation Act stipulates that such a project taking place over more than a province territory could be declared “à l’avantage du Canada” and be nationalized by the Federal Government. So, every province will have to be the official owner of its part of the power grid.

As it did in the fifties with the Trans Canadian Highway, the power lines could be given to the concerned provinces once built. The financial understatement just agreed some months ago between the governments of Canada and Newfoundland for a power line between the Lower Churchill, Newfoundland and Nova Scotia is another way of supporting such projects.

This very important project about a Canadian power grid would certainly be a new milestone in the Canadian history. It would launch an all new era of fabulous development all across Canada, opening new territories and technologies. It would also help to attain a very high standard of respect for environment.


Every provinces has to study the situation from Canadian point of view, as a whole, on a long-term basis. It would seem that several provinces could achieve substantial savings in cost of electricity with a more “Canadian” approach, while at the same time respecting their provincial jurisdictions.

In addition to marketing its energy at a higher rate than offered by the American Market, Quebec would necessarily play a central role as its patented know-how in 735 KW technology would be drawn upon, along with its suppliers, manufacturers and engineers; ultimately, some 60% of the network would be located within Quebec. Quebec enterprises could look forward to some 25 billion worth of contracts, representing a most saleable aspect of “Le Plan Nord”.

F Pierre Gingras, June 2007

Rev. May 2013



The Pan-Canadian Power Grid

Features of the Pan-Canadian Grid

– Premised on the proven 735 kV technology although other technologies could also be used;
– Hydro-Quebec ‘s (735 kV) network now comprises some 11,400 km;
– The pan-Canadian Grid would require the building of 15,000 km, over 20 years;
– Each of the new transmission lines would aim simultaneously to

• interconnect a major new bloc of energy

• interconnect two provincial grids

• replace thermal generating stations; Anticipated new generating capacity: (already evaluated to varying degrees)

Quebec: 18 to 20,000 MW

Manitoba: 5,000 MW

Labrador: 5,000 MW

N.W. Territories: 13,000 MW (under study)

– Thermal power generation replaced or relegated to reserve status: 30,000 MW;
– Pollution eliminated:

30,000 MW, 60% of time, that is some 180 million tons of GHG, representing 25% of Canada’s total emissions of 750 million tones. It is to be noted that the oil sands cause release about 48 million tons/year.
Pan-Canadian 735 KV Power Grid

Hypothetical Scope

Hydroelectric Generation, Potential (already studied):

– NW Territories

Mc Kenzie River, 9 sites 13,900 MW (to be confirmed) Manitoba

Total Potential, 4,915 MW

Burntwood R. (3 sites) 680 MW

Nelson R. (6 sites) 3,990 MW (1000 km distant form Athabaska oil sands)

Upper Churchill (2 sites) 245 MW

Lower Churchill (under study)


Total potential (18,000 MW approx)

Lower N. Shore 4,000 MW (Romaine, Petit Mecatina and others)

Lesser sites 4,000 MW (30 sites, 50 to 150 MW each)

James Bay 4,000 MW (Grande Baleine, other lesser sites)

Nottaway, Broadback 5,200 MW (Rupert not included)

St-Lawrence 500 MW (Montreal, Beauharnois, other)

– N.L. (5000 MW)

Lower Churchill 5,000 MW (Gull Island, Muskrat Falls, etc)

– Nova Scotia (6,700 MW)

Tidal power, 40% LF (?) (under study)

Cumberland Basin 1400 MW Cobequid Bay 5300 MW

The Pan-Canadian Grid

(one concept among the dozen possibilities!)

Lower Churchill – Quebec 2 x 1100 km

Lower Churchill – St John 850 km

Quebec to Fredericton 2 x 1000 km

Fredericton to Halifax 700 km

Nelson to Winnipeg 3 x 800 km

Winnipeg to Regina to Saskatoon 800 km

Winnipeg to Sudbury to Toronto 1650 km

James Bay to Sudbury to Toronto 2 x 1400 km

Baie Comeau to Montreal to Toronto 1200 km

Montreal to Ottawa to Toronto 500 km

Total: 15,100 km approx

Thermal Power Generation, to be replaced or relegated to peaking reserve

(as of May, 2011)

Thermal Generation

Provincial Total

Nova Scotia 1778 MW 2293 MW

New Brunswick 2429 MW 3313 MW

P.E. Island 300 (?) MW

Quebec 699 MW 39,967 MW (incl. Ch. Falls)

Ontario 8,560 (*) MW 22,000 MW

Manitoba – 4,998 MW

Saskatchewan 2,193 MW 3,218 MW

Alberta 10,000 MW 13,000 (**) MW (approx.)

(*) excluding nuclear

(**) 110 privately owned stations

How American and Canadian exports markets compare

US North East:

a) Hydro-Quebec’s traditional market to which it delivers some 75% of its exports;

b) Hydro-Quebec anticipates selling at a price in the order of 8 cents/kWh,

c) there is an economic slowdown to say the least in USA;

d) massive arrival of shale gas on the market and price of natural gas low, situation likely to persist apparently for two more decades at least;

e) it is also advanced, mischievously, that Hydro-Quebec hydraulic energy is not “green”… so that it would be ineligible for pollution credits of $30/T of greenhouse gas emissions (GES) equivalent to 4 cts/kWh and that could rise to $90/T of GES in 2020;

f) under the terms of a law drafted by representative Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico, only hydraulic energy from American sources should be recognized as “clean” as opposed to imported hydraulic energy;

g) Vermont, New Hampshire and Massachusetts oppose the building of overhead transmission lines intended to meet New York’s needs;

h) Under American regulations the next transmission lines to serve New York and New England are already reserved for speculators who do not even produce a single MW of their own, even before such lines could be built by Hydro-Quebec.

Canadian Energy Market – Characteristics

a) Currently, Ontario pays 18 cts/kWh to private power producers;

b) In Ontario, where the cost of electricity is already twice that in Quebec, it will be necessary to double the price again to permit investment of 33 billion in refurbishment of nuclear power stations, 27 billion for two new power reactors, 12 billion for the promotion of energy conservation while decommissioning coal-fired power stations, among the most polluting in North America. Altogether, these projects aggregate some 88 billion dollars. (National Post, Nov. 23, 2011)

c) Ontario must contend with an aging group (some 9000 MW) of highly-polluting thermal power stations which require replacement or restriction to peaking duty.

d)Receiving an offer of 13.4 billion per reactor, submitted by A.E.C.L in the summer of 2009, the Government of Ontario signed an undertaking to purchase 2500 MW of wind power with an expected load factor 30% on Jan. 20, 2010, for 7 billion $. The “green energy” program of which this a part was also anticipated paying up to 80 cts /kWh for solar energy and 10.3 cts /kWh for energy derived from biomass.

d) On Friday, Feb. 11, 2011 Premier Mc Guinty of Ontario announced that portions of the wind energy program were being cancelled, at considerable cost, several contracts for such having already been awarded.

e) The situation in the Maritimes is similar where the high cost of rehabilitating the Pointe Lepreau power station, now exceeding four billion dollars, has added to the problem. The Federal Government has offered to serve as guarantor for loans to finance transmission from

Labrador to the Maritimes, to help in this project.