North American Energy Infrastructure Act Will Bolster U.S.–Canada Electricity Relationship

May 7, 2014

The United States and Canada share a small but critical electricity relationship, which offers numerous benefits to consumers in both countries. This integrated power grid allows the U.S. and Canada to pool energy resources, which leads to enhanced reliability and greater access to clean and affordable electricity supplies for consumers and businesses on both sides of the border. H.R. 3301, the North American Energy Infrastructure Act, authored by House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) and Rep. Gene Green (D-TX), seeks to build upon this current system by facilitating additional investment in cross-border electric transmission facilities.

Secretary of State John Kerry stressed the need for an enhanced international electric grid today at the Council of the Americas' 44th Conference on the Americas, stating, “And we have to do a better job, all of us, in investing in new clean energy technologies and connecting energy markets from Chile to Canada. … So we believe in this future of energy policy for this hemisphere, of linking Canada, U.S., Mexico, to all the way down through Latin America.”

By bolstering North America’s integrated electric grid, H.R. 3301 will help improve energy affordability and reliability, job creation, the environment, and our overall economy. The North American Energy Infrastructure Act will ensure that there won’t be any Keystone XL-like delays for cross-border electricity projects. The committee is scheduled to vote on this bipartisan legislation tomorrow. Click HERE for more details.

The Current U.S.-Canada Electricity Relationship
Currently, the U.S. and Canadian transmission systems are physically interconnected at over 35 points with linkages stretching across the border from the Pacific Northwest to New England. Canada is currently the United States’ largest foreign supplier of electricity, with exports to the U.S. typically representing anywhere from 5-10% of Canada’s total production. In 2012, electricity exports from Canada totaled 57,864,640 megawatt-hours. While these exports constitute a small percentage of electricity consumption in the U.S. nationwide (between 1-2%), they are critical to the energy security and reliability of several states and regions, particularly in New England and the Midwest.

The vast majority of Canadian power exports are generated from clean and renewable energy sources. Sales from the hydropower-producing provinces of British Columbia, Manitoba, and Québec represent 75% of all exports. The Canadian province of Ontario, the second-largest electricity exporter to the U.S., generated 79% of its power from emission-free nuclear and hydropower facilities, with natural gas comprising the next largest share of its portfolio at 15%. 

The Future of the U.S.-Canada Electricity Relationship
In addition to the three-dozen existing physical interconnections between the U.S. and Canadian grids, there are additional electric transmission projects currently at various stages of development. These projects would further enhance the level of integration between the transmission systems in the U.S. and Canada. Furthermore, they each propose to unlock new sources of clean energy generation located in both countries. By standardizing and modernizing the cross-border approval process for similar proposals in the future, the North American Energy Infrastructure Act will help spur additional investment in cross-border transmission lines.

Examples of cross-border electricity projects proposed or currently under development include:

Soule River Hydroelectric Project
Sponsor – Soule Hydro, LLC
138 kV submarine HVAC line (Alaska-British Columbia)
10 miles
Will facilitate development of 77.4 MW hydropower facility in Alaska and sales to consumers in British Columbia or U.S. Pacific Northwest

Montana-Alberta Tie Limited
Sponsor – Enbridge
300 MW, 230 kV merchant line (Montana-Alberta)
214 miles
Intended to bring online new wind farms in Montana; will allow bidirectional flow of wind generation from Montana and Alberta

Great Northern Transmission Line
Sponsor – Minnesota Power
500 kV line (Minnesota-Manitoba)
Planned in conjunction with 15-year Power Purchase Agreement between Minnesota Power and Manitoba Hydro, which will support Minnesota Power’s development of new wind resources in North Dakota

Champlain Hudson Power Express
Sponsor – Transmission Developers Inc.
1,000 MW HVDC merchant line (New York-Québec)
Will ship hydro and wind generation from Québec to the New York City area