Electricity markets tightly integrated between USA, Canada

Can Canadian hydro electricity help USA meet lower carbon emission requirements during transition from coal?

New electricity transmission projects are coming on line that will increase Canadian hydro electricity exports to American markets, according to the US Energy Information Administration.

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Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, based on National Energy Board of Canada
Note: A small amount of electricity is traded by states outside the regions shown.

Electricity flows freely between the USA and Canada, helping to stabilize power grids in both countries, though overall, Canada is a net exporter to the United States.

Canada generates most of its electricity – approximately 63 per cent – from large hydro electric projects in British Columbia, Manitoba, Quebec, and Newfoundland and Labrador.

On a net basis, Canada exports electricity mainly to New England, New York, and the Midwest states, while the United States exports electricity from the Pacific Northwest states to the Canadian provinces of British Columbia, Manitoba, and Quebec.

Electricity trade between the United States and Canada benefits both countries. Customers in western Canada and in the U.S. Northeast can access low-cost hydropower resources from the other side of the border.

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Sources: U.S. Energy Information Administration, based on Statistics Canada.

And the Northeast Power Coordinating Council (NPCC), the Midwest Reliability Organization (MRO), and the Western Electricity Coordinating Council (WECC) ensure that power flowing across U.S.-Canada transmission lines helps maintain the stability of the North American eastern and western power grids.

There are currently more than 30 electricity transmission linkages between the United States and Canada. During 2014, 60 companies in Canada exported 58.4 terawatthours (TWh) of electricity into the United States, making up 1.6 per cent of U.S. electricity retail sales and 10 per cent of Canadian electricity generation.

The largest exporters were Hydro-Québec (16.4 TWh) and Manitoba Hydro (8.6 TWh).

New England and New York accounted for 60 per cent of the total electricity imported into the United States in 2014, and these imports represent 12-16 per cent of the region’s retail sales of electricity.

New England imports its electricity primarily from Quebec. New England’s power generation sources have been shifting to natural gas in recent years, but the region also has been importing more of the hydroelectricity from Canada.

New York imports electricity from the hydro electric resources in Quebec and Ontario, often on a flexible schedule as needed.

Minnesota and North Dakota imported 12 per cent of their electricity from Canada in 2014.

The Pacific Northwest is a net electricity exporter to Canada because it has hydro electric capacity that generates large amounts of electricity in excess of the region’s need during high-water periods. This electricity helps Canada meet periods of peak demand.

Recent and proposed transmission projects have the potential to increase the amount of trade across the border.

The Montana-Alberta Tie Line, completed in 2013, is a 230 kilovolt (kV) line that allows for bidirectional flow of power primarily for new wind power generating units on both sides of the border.

The Great Northern Transmission line is a proposed 500 kV project connecting Minnesota Power with Manitoba Hydro, which is intended to support development of wind resources in the upper Midwest.

Developers hope to relieve transmission congestion in the New York City area by sending hydropower directly from Quebec via the proposed Champlain Hudson Power Express transmission project, which could bring up to 1,000 megawatts of additional power into the city.

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