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NB Power - Facilities

Generating Facilities

Transmission Facilities

Distribution Facilities


Generating Facilities

NB Power's current generating stations, their in-service dates, net generating capacities and current role on the system are listed in Table 1.

Useful life of generating facilities is affected by age and the manner in which units are operated. Varying the output of units while they are operating causes additional wear on the facilities concerned. Long-term usage of generating stations depends on the application of sound engineering principles, the level of operating and maintenance costs, unit availability, generation capacity and efficiency (the rate at which fuel is burned to produce energy). For depreciation purposes, the estimated useful life of generating facilities is indicated in Table 2.

Remaining useful lives of generating stations are periodically reviewed for the purpose of determining the most economic means of supplying electricity. As units age, their role often changes from base load to intermediate or peaking supply. In some cases it may be more economic to lay-up or retire older units than to continue operating and maintaining them.

Integrated Resource Plan (IRP)

NB Power developed its first Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) in 1990 and an update was recently completed in December 1995. An IRP is a very broad long-term assessment of customer requirements matched with a least-cost analysis of existing and potential supply-side and demand-side options. To identify the best mix of resources, a number of complex, inter-related factors need to be considered. These include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Fuel Mix
  • Environmental Considerations
  • Demand-Side Management (DSM)
  • Non-Utility Generation (NUG) and Co-generation
  • External Requirements and Opportunities
  • Maintenance Issues
  • Reserve Requirements
  • Nature of Nuclear Facility
  • Nature of Hydro Facilities
  • System Losses
  • Development Lead Times

Fuel Mix

Unlike many Canadian utilities, NB Power does not possess abundant hydro resources, or large quantities of low-cost indigenous fuel sources. This has created a dependence on external fuel to generate electricity. Too much reliance on a single external fuel source introduces risks in terms of price fluctuations and reliability of supply.

Since the 1970s, significant initiatives have been introduced to ease NB Power's dependence on oil generation. They include:

  • Completion of Mactaquac units #5 and #6.
  • Construction of the Dalhousie #2 coal-fired unit and the recent conversion of both Dalhousie units to Orimulsion® fuel.
  • Construction of the Point Lepreau nuclear generating station.
  • Construction of the Belledune coal-fired generating station.
  • Strategic purchases of electricity.
  • Development of NB Power's co-generation policy.

Following the completion of the Dalhousie conversion project, NB Power now has in place a diverse mix of fuel sources. Figure 4 illustrates the planned generation mix which will be accomplished by 1996/97, compared with that which existed in 1978/79. It should be noted that NB Power possesses significant interconnection capabilities and accordingly purchases could represent a more significant portion of the future supply should opportunities for low cost purchase contracts become available.

Environmental Considerations

Environmental regulations must be satisfied in the construction and operation of NB Power facilities. In addition to complying with all statutory requirements, consideration must be given to pending legislation and national, provincial and regional trends when planning the system. This proactive position is particularly important since retro-fitting to comply with environmental regulations is often more expensive and less effective than accommodating these regulations during the construction of new facilities.

Demand-Side Management (DSM)

In addition to increasing supply facilities, customer requirements can be met through conservation and efficiency measures. Conservation and DSM initiatives are designed to reduce future demand for electricity. The long-term economic impacts of selective DSM programs result in using existing facilities rather than constructing new ones.

NB Power has been encouraging the wise use of electricity as early as the 1960s when energy efficiency advice was given to new home owners by a team of 32 Customer Service Representatives. Conservation efforts became more prominent during the oil crisis of the 1970s. During the 1980s, NB Power established some 20 Energy Advisor positions in Districts throughout the province. Energy advisors continue to visit homes and businesses, giving advice on matters of energy efficiency including new conservation measures, materials and building technology.

The 1990s have brought new challenges for NB Power's conservation and DSM efforts. In December 1990, the Province of New Brunswick issued "An Energy Policy - 1991-2005", which advocated energy efficiency and conservation as the cornerstone of provincial energy policy. NB Power increased its emphasis on energy conservation through the introduction of several new programs in the 1990s.

  • "Home Energy Checks" by Energy Advisors were offered to identify heat loss areas and inform owners on conservation measures which could be taken.
  • Some 66,000 mercury-vapour street and area lights were converted to high pressure sodium lights.
  • Contributions were made toward 220,000 packages of Krypton light bulbs to promote the importance of energy-efficient lighting.
  • Membership was obtained in Power Smart Inc., a utility-sponsored partnership designed to promote energy-efficiency programs such as Low Flow Showerheads, High Efficiency Motors, Residential Hot Water Savings, Power Smart Lighting, Power Smart Product campaigns, etc.
  • The Corporation offered Conservation and Electrical Improvement Loans (CEIL) and a Power Smart Home Renovation program which have been used by over 16,000 customers.
  • An R-2000 Home Incentive Program was offered in conjunction with the New Brunswick Home Builders' Association. This represents the most successful home efficiency construction program in the country.
  • Assistance was provided to commercial and institutional customers through the Self-Assessment Energy Audit course, Energy Management Task Force and Federal Buildings Initiative Program, all programs designed to train and educate customers on energy-efficiency improvements.
  • R&D support was provided for the Research Centre for Energy Conversion at the Universitè de Moncton; work included projects such as an advanced air- and ground-source heat pump technology and alternative refrigeration technology.
  • An NB Power "Heat Plus" energy-efficiency retrofit program is available for residential buildings. This program is part of an overall provincial government energy-efficiency initiative related to residential, commercial and government buildings.

NB Power's first IRP (1990) considered demand-side measures in addition to supply-side options for meeting future energy requirements. The plan identified target savings of 110 MW by 1996/97. With in-province sales and export targets being lower than anticipated in the early 1990s, this target was deferred until 1998/99. With the release of NB Power's updated IRP, the targeted DSM savings is projected to be 89 MW by fiscal year 1999/2000.

Non-Utility Generation and Co-generation

Non-utility generation (NUG) is electrical energy produced by industrial enterprises or other entrepreneurs, either for sale to NB Power or for their own use. Producers may realize greater overall energy efficiencies by generating their own power, rather than purchasing it from the NB Power system.

Co-generation is the concurrent generation of useful heat (usually steam) and electricity. The useful heat is generally used by industry in the manufacturing process and for space heating. In 1994, New Brunswick had the third highest percentage of installed co-generation capacity in Canada (132 MW or 3.0%). This capacity is largely produced by the New Brunswick pulp and paper industry.

In November 1994, NB Power adopted a co-generation policy which was approved by the Provincial Cabinet. The policy states that prior to building new capacity for in-province needs, NB Power will solicit co-generation options by means of a Request for Proposal (RFP) process. Where co-generation opportunities exist as a result of industrial expansion or modernization, consideration will be given outside the RFP process. Since 25% of steam generating facilities at pulp and paper mills in the province are planned to be retired in the next five years, this initiative may foster additional or further modernization in industry. This new policy is consistent with NB Power's overall resource plan, ensuring least cost options are utilized to meet long-term requirements.

NB Power is presently purchasing electricity from four NUGs for a total of 10 MW. In 1991, the Corporation stated it was prepared to purchase up to 100 MW of NUG by November 1996. Two 25 MW wood-fired generation contracts were signed in 1992 for NUG projects in the Kedgwick and Sussex areas. The Sussex contract has now been abandoned by the developer. In early 1995, a 38 MW co-generation project was announced by an industrial customer in the Edmundston area. NB Power intends to purchase capacity and energy from this project, which has a scheduled completion date of January 1997.

External Requirements and Opportunities

In addition to in-province supply requirements, opportunities exist to sell and purchase power to and from neighbouring utilities which benefit in-province customers. Out-of-province sales have typically been made under long-term firm contracts, short-term capacity and energy related contracts or on an economy basis.

Purchases of energy such as a transaction with Hydro Quèbec during 1995, also enable NB Power to meet the needs of its customers at an attractive cost. This purchase, during the Spacer Location and Relocation (SLAR) maintenance project at Point Lepreau, replaced the bulk of Point Lepreau's normal output during that period.

NB Power analyzes the benefit of all potential external sale opportunities. Construction of new generating facilities may be advanced, where justified, to take advantage of these potential benefits. Financial and environmental implications of such projects would be evaluated prior to making commitments on generation advancements.

Maintenance Issues

NB Power conducts an annual maintenance program on its generating facilities. The program is designed to complete required maintenance while ensuring loads are met as efficiently as possible. Generally this program is scheduled during spring, summer and fall months. Maintenance activities are either preventive in nature or are specific repairs or improvements as identified by operating personnel.

Each generating plant has a planned maintenance schedule which renders it unavailable during specified periods of time. For example, NB Power's largest generating unit at Point Lepreau is generally taken out of service for annual maintenance in the spring of each year. This takes advantage of river run-off conditions which allow significant hydro power to be generated.

Reserve Requirements

Consideration must also be given to unplanned outages caused by equipment failure. This problem requires the installation of more generating capacity than is needed to meet customer demands at any point in time. This additional generating capacity, or "reserve", is a function of generating unit size, overall system size, the expected frequency of unplanned outages caused by equipment failure and day-to-day and seasonal variations. Through experience, NB Power has developed criteria for determining planning capacity reserve requirements which result in reserve being established as the greater of the largest generating unit or 20% of the firm system peak demand. Reserves also provide security in the event actual peak demand is higher than forecast.

To lower reserve requirements and provide cost savings, interconnections with neighbouring utilities are beneficial. A reserve agreement with Nova Scotia Power and interconnections to New England and Quebec allow increased reliability when shortages occur.

Nature of Nuclear Facility

The fact that nuclear generation has, by a substantial margin, the lowest fuel cost on NB Power's system, with the exception of hydro, requires that Point Lepreau generating station be utilized as much as possible. When Point Lepreau incurs an outage, replacement energy is required to meet NB Power's energy requirements. This generally means that fossil fired generation must increase or firm purchases must be made from neighbouring utilities. In either case, replacement energy is incrementally much more expensive than nuclear generation. As a result, NB Power places high priority on maintaining a high capacity factor at Point Lepreau.

Nature of Hydro Facilities

Hydro facilities provide 880 MW of capacity on NB Power's system and supply about 20% of the Corporation's annual energy needs. These facilities represent a low cost, renewable resource since their operation has no direct fuel cost. Unfortunately, the bulk of the energy produced by hydro facilities is only available in the spring run-off period when the snow melts in the watersheds in the upper reaches of the St. John River. Unlike utilities such as Hydro- Quèbec or Manitoba Hydro which have ample storage opportunities, NB Power has very little storage capability.

Since the storage volumes are small, these units operate on a cyclic basis except under high river flow conditions. Hydro generation is maximized during periods of high demand, causing the headponds to be drawn down. As demand reduces, hydro generation decreases, allowing the headponds to refill. This is illustrated in Figure 5.

A unique feature of hydro units is that they can be brought on-line very quickly and can, therefore, replace the sudden loss of another unit by drawing from storage while an alternative supply is arranged. Since it is not possible to store electricity, this is an important feature in operating a power system. However, the energy potential of the generating capacity of NB Power's hydro generating facilities, as indicated on Table 1, is not equivalent to that of nuclear or thermal generation because of the limitation resulting from river flows.

System Losses

Delivering electricity from generating plants to customers is not a completely efficient process, as losses occur when electricity passes through transmission and distribution facilities.

System losses must therefore be recognized in generation planning activities. In 1994/95, NB Power's annual energy losses amounted to 906 GWhrs or 5.2% of net generation and purchases. Transmission losses accounted for 558 GWhrs of total losses while distribution losses were 348 GWhrs. NB Power is continually striving to reduce losses through projects such as the 345 kV transmission system expansion and the introduction of 25 kV distribution facilities.

Development Lead Times

NB Power must allow sufficient lead time in order to bring generating plants on-line. On top of actual plant construction, Public Utilities Board (PUB) review, environmental review, design, scheduling and purchasing requirements must be built into project time frames. For base load plants such as Belledune, lead times from planning to on-line production may be between five and nine years. Peaking plants such as Ste. Rose or Millbank require less lead time, generally between three and four years.

Summary

These factors, among others, are considered in the development of NB Power's Integrated Resource Plan. NB Power's most recent IRP differs from the 1990 Plan as underlying assumptions and factors included as inputs to the plan have evolved over the past five years. Results of the updated IRP are detailed in the Focused Business Plans - Facilities Management section.


Transmission Facilities

The transmission system transfers electricity from the generating stations to the distribution system. Originally, generating stations were located close to the load they served and the transmission system could be as simple as one line. Today, a complex and sophisticated system connects generating stations to substations distributing electricity to customers throughout the province. The transmission system consists of wood poles and steel structures and is designed to transfer large quantities of electricity with minimal losses.

NB Power's transmission system forms the backbone which interconnects the major load centres in the province and in the northeastern part of North America. The transmission system represents an investment of $596 million.

In the early 1960s, NB Power realized that there were significant benefits to be achieved, particularly in generation and transmission, if the power system were interconnected with neighbouring utilities. As a result of such interconnections, NB Power conducts significant electric power brokerage activities, that is, the buying and selling of power for a saving or a benefit. New Brunswick's geographic position and NB Power's interconnection development strategies have enabled it to enter into multiple transactions with other utilities. The development of interconnections with Quebec, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia and New England has enabled NB Power to construct larger, more economical generating units to allow for the purchase and sale of surplus energy on both a short- and long-term basis. Interconnections represent a significant resource for NB Power.

Actual interconnection capabilities with neighbouring utilities are dependent on system conditions in New Brunswick and these other regions at the time of transfer. Normal maximum interconnection capabilities are shown in Table 3:

New Brunswick is a small part of a much larger transmission system. The co-ordination of system operations accordingly extends well beyond our boundaries. NB Power is a member of the Northeast Power Co-ordinating Council (NPCC) which includes Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia and PEI as well as all New England south to and including New York state. Power fluctuations within New Brunswick and the Maritime area can affect power systems as far south as Boston and New York. Similarly, fluctuations in New England can have very large effects in New Brunswick.

In order to ensure an adequate level of reliability in the northeast part of the continent and across North America, criteria have been established to guide utilities in the design, operation and maintenance of their power systems. To join the NPCC, members agree to abide by guidelines and criteria that have been established by experience over the years. It is these guidelines that form the basis for operation and maintenance of the power system in New Brunswick.

NB Power's transmission system uses 4 different voltages. Higher voltage lines provide greater power carrying capacity and lower losses.

  • 345 kV and 230 kV for major transmission.
  • 138 kV and 69 kV for transmission to local areas of the province.

The 345 kV transmission system comprises some 1,200 km of transmission lines. This system, which encircles the province, is relatively new compared with other transmission facilities and provides sufficient capacity to ensure reliable, economic delivery of electricity for the next five years and more.

The 230 kV and 138 kV transmission systems comprise some 2,811 km of transmission lines which are generally near the midpoint of their estimated useful life.

The 69 kV transmission system comprises some 2,539 km of transmission lines and transmits the majority, some 55%, of NB Power's in-province loads. These facilities have an average age of 38 years, and require ongoing maintenance to maintain reliability and extend their useful life.


Distribution Facilities

Distribution refers to the part of the power system that delivers electricity directly to most NB Power customers. Characterized by lines on wooden poles along highways and streets, the distribution system includes primary circuits, predominately 12.5 kV, secondary circuits from 120 to 600 volts, and distribution substations and transformers.

NB Power has the responsibility for the safe, reliable and economic distribution of electricity to some 334,000 direct and indirect customers in all parts of New Brunswick. Indirect customers are customers of municipal utilities in the cities of Saint John and Edmundston, which are responsible for distributing power to their own customers. Over 25,000 km of low voltage distribution lines, and 238 substations and terminals are utilized to deliver electricity to NB Power's 293,000 direct customers.

In addition to providing electricity, NB Power currently leases and maintains over 196,000 water heaters, 38,000 dusk to dawn luminaires (area lights, mostly used as yard and security lighting) to homes and businesses and 57,000 street lights to municipalities.

The Corporation's investment of $572 million in distribution facilities is in direct response to load growth in localized areas. These area loads are analyzed annually to ensure adequate facilities are in place to provide reliable service. As would be expected, this requires continuous reinvestment to meet demand as a result of new residential, commercial and industrial construction.

In 1994, NB Power embarked on the first 25 kV distribution project in the Cocagne area. The use of 25 kV facilities rather than the traditional 12.5 kV reduces loss levels, construction costs and maintenance requirements. NB Power is now committed to considering this option for future construction.



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