Power utility BC Hydro plans C$800 million dam upgrade

Tue Feb 22, 2011 4:53pm EST
 
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VANCOUVER (Reuters) - Provincial power utility BC Hydro unveiled plans on Tuesday for an C$800 million ($808 million) upgrade of an 80-year-old hydroelectric dam and generating plant in southern British Columbia.

The utility said it had applied this week to the British Columbia Utilities Commission, which regulates BC Hydro, to modernize the Ruskin Dam and Powerhouse.

BC Hydro, Canada's third biggest power utility, recently embarked on a C$6 billion, three-year capital program to renew aging power infrastructure and help meet an expected 40 percent increase in power demand in the province in the next 20 years.

The utility has proposed raising electricity rates by 10 percent in each of the next three years to help pay for the infrastructure program.

"We have deferred and put off investments for a decade and we are at a point now where we have to reinvest in our system," BC Hydro Chief Executive Dave Cobb said on a conference call.

The commission is expected to take about a year to decide on the Ruskin project upgrade, officials said.

($1=$0.99 Canadian)

(Reporting by Nicole Mordant; editing by Rob Wilson)