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B.C. will have surplus power for a decade

Demand for power in southern B.C. is expected to be driven by greater electric vehicle adoption
An overview of the Site C right bank structures, including the spillways, stilling basins, intakes, penstocks and the powerhouse, April 2021.

Greater electric vehicle adoption is expected to increase the demand for electricity in B.C., but only in the south coast region. Otherwise, B.C. is expected to have a surplus of power and no need for additional generating capacity until after 2032, according a long-awaited integrated resource plan from BC Hydro.

BC Hydro has released its draft Integrated Resource Plan, which had been delayed for two years to allow BC Hydro address the long-term impacts expected from the Clean BC plan, which includes increased electrification of sectors like transportation.

There have been questions about how long B.C. will have a surplus of power, once Site C dam is finished and begins generating power. And the answer to that, according to the IRP, is about a decade.

“BC Hydro is well positioned to serve our customers’ province-wide electricity needs for most of the next decade, before the addition of any new clean resources,” BC Hydro states in its plan. “Our integrated system is currently in surplus, which we expect to continue for several years.”

Additional demand for power can be met in part through conservation measures like demand-side management and energy efficiency. BC Hydro estimates it can save about 700 megawatts (MW) of power (more than half the generating capacity of Site C dam) through things like energy efficiency, and industrial load curtailment.

“At a system-wide level, before demand-side measures, new energy needs are not expected to occur until fiscal 2029, while capacity needs are not expected to occur until fiscal 2032,” the IRP states.

“However, growing demand for electricity on the South Coast of the province means we expect to need additional regional capacity resources in fiscal 2027.”

Demand for power in southern B.C. is expected to be driven by greater electric vehicle adoption.

“British Columbia is a leader in electric vehicle adoption within Canada,” the report notes. “This is partially what’s behind higher load growth in the South Coast region compared to the rest of the province.

While the province has sufficient generating capacity for the next decade, meeting a growing demand for power in the southern portion of the province will require additional infrastructure, like beefed up transmission.

The demand for power in areas like industry has been in decline. So what is happening is a shift, with demand in other parts of the province declining, while increasing in the more urban areas of the south coast.

“New demand (from EVs) presents an opportunity for us to mitigate the risk of declines in traditional demand, but it also may require new infrastructure,” the IRP notes.

BC Hydro gets some of it power from the private sector. A number of long-term power purchase agreements with independent power producers in B.C. are set to expire in five years.

The IRP's plan to meet B.C.'s energy needs includes renewing those agreements with "market-priced" renewal options.