Understanding voltage conversion
As more homes, businesses, and developments connect to our electrical grid, we need to make sure we can provide electricity to everyone safely and reliably, and plan for future demand on the grid in your area.
One way we’re preparing our grid is by converting parts of our distribution system – substations, wires and electrical equipment – to a higher voltage. Higher voltages allow us to distribute more power or to more customers in the same area.
Today, much of our distribution system can support up to 12.5 kilovolts (kV) but we’re increasing the system to 25kV. By converting that equipment to a higher voltage, we can meet future demands on the grid without adding extra lines and equipment. This is called voltage conversion.
To complete the voltage conversion, we typically need to take an outage in the area so that our crews can work safely. Most customers will only notice an outage on the day we convert the voltage in their area. A small number of customers, such as shopping malls, businesses and high rise buildings with their own high voltage equipment, might have to upgrade their existing electrical equipment to be able to connect at the higher voltage.
We’ll be contacting any customers who might be affected by voltage conversion directly to determine the best solution for their electrical equipment.
Work has already started in larger urban areas in the Lower Mainland, southern Vancouver Island and the northern Interior where we know we have capacity constraints and/or equipment reaching the end of life. We expect that completing voltage conversion across our whole distribution system will take several years.
We'll contact you if your equipment needs upgrading
If you’re a customer whose electrical equipment might not be able to support the new voltage, we will reach out to you – watch for a notification from BC Hydro in the mail. We will arrange to visit your site, at no cost to you, to look at your electrical service and equipment. Then we can help you figure out the most economical and best technical solution to prepare for the conversion.
On our side, we may need to upgrade equipment inside our substations as well as other equipment outside the substation fence like transformers, insulators and underground cables.
For customers with their own high voltage equipment, your conversion options will depend on the age of their existing equipment and future infrastructure requirements. Different customers will require different solutions and the length of the process can vary. We will work with you to help you determine which solution best fits your needs.
Benefits of voltage conversion
By increasing the capacity of our system, we can serve more customers safely and reliably. Other ways our customers and the broader community could benefit are:
- We can more easily accommodate new growth and development
- Customers have access to better power quality and reliability by replacing older infrastructure
- Financial savings that we can pass on to our customers, as it’s more cost-effective to increase voltage as opposed to adding more power lines and equipment
- Meeting growing and future demands for electricity such as electric vehicle charging.
Contact us for questions about your voltage conversion
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