Wednesday, September 16, 2009

New power line for northern B.C. promised

The B.C. government says a proposal to build a new high-voltage power line in northwestern B.C. will go ahead, now that the federal government has agreed to contribute up to $130 million for the $404-million project — but details of the province's financial commitment aren't yet clear.

Blair Lekstrom, B.C.'s minister of energy, mines and petroleum resources, would only say the province is hoping to secure $90 million in funding from power companies that would use the line, meaning the province could be on the hook for about $185 million.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced the new funding for the construction of the Northwest Transmission Line during his visit to Washington, D.C., on Wednesday to meet with U.S. President Barack Obama, as part of the two leaders' "clean energy dialogue."

"The Northwest Transmission Line will facilitate the development of green energy and help provide British Columbia's northern and remote communities with more sustainable and affordable power," Harper said in a release.

The 287-kilovolt line will run 335 kilometres along the Highway 37 corridor from Terrace to Meziadin Junction and north to Bob Quinn Lake, providing access to the electricity grid for customers and power producers.

Lekstrom said the power line has the potential to generate billions of dollars in capital investment, create thousands of jobs and open economic opportunities on a global scale in the Northwest.

The line is expected to bolster mining and private hydroelectric power projects in northwestern B.C., reduce the use of diesel generators in the area and cut greenhouse gas emissions. It could also eventually connect Alaska with the North American transmission grid, via B.C., Lekstrom said in a release.

The province has already invested $10 million to support the environmental assessment and First Nations consultation process, said the minister. Construction is expected to start next spring, Harper said.

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