HOW DOES BC HYDRO PLAN TO MANAGE THE INCREASED DEMAND FOR ELECTRICITY IN THE FUTURE?

BC Hydro expects electricity demand in British Columbia to grow significantly in the coming decades as the population increases and transportation and building sectors transition away from fossil fuels towards more electricity-powered solutions like electric vehicles and electric heating. To adequately meet this rising demand while maintaining a reliable and affordable electricity system, BC Hydro has developed an Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) which outlines various strategies for managing increased demand.

One of the key focus areas in the IRP is on conservation and reducing energy usage. BC Hydro has very ambitious conservation targets, aiming to reduce energy use per capita by 1.5% annually over the next 20 years through various programs that encourage more efficient use of electricity. This includes rebates for efficient appliances and electronics, lighting upgrades, insulation retrofits for homes and buildings, and behavior change initiatives. Conservation is seen as the most cost-effective way to avoid or delay new infrastructure investments. BC Hydro expects conservation efforts could help offset up to 70% of expected load growth by 2040.

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To supplement conservation, BC Hydro also has plans to develop significant new sources of renewable and clean electricity generation. This includes continuing to maximize the potential of large hydropower facilities like the Site C dam project underway in northeast BC. But BC Hydro is also turning to other renewable resources to add new capacity, such as substantial amounts of wind and solar power. The IRP envisions between 1,000-2,000 MW of new wind and solar capacity being brought online in the next 10-15 years.

Tapping more remote reservoirs for mini-hydro projects and pursuing geothermal energy are also part of BC Hydro’s diversification strategy. And a major initiative is pursuing electricity imports from independent power producers using run-of-river hydro, wind, and other renewables. BC Hydro has implemented a Standing Offer Program and Clean Power Call to attract private investments that align with their clean power objectives. By 2040 renewable energy could account for over 95% of BC Hydro’s total generating capacity.

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Modernizing BC Hydro’s existing power grid infrastructure is another focus. Upgrades are planned across the province to enhance transmission capacity and distribution networks to deliver power more efficiently. This includes targeted reinforcement projects in fast growth regions as well as implementing more demand response and automated grid technologies to optimize capacity utilization. Microgrids and localized storage are also being piloted as strategies to defer expansion of centralized infrastructure into remote areas.

Advancing new clean electricity applications like electric vehicles, heat pumps and emerging technologies is identified as a key driver of future load. To support this transition BC Hydro’s strategy addresses accommodating charging infrastructure, time-varying rates, and flexible load and grid interaction opportunities. The utility is also piloting vehicle-to-grid capabilities and other virtual power plant demonstrations to leverage EV batteries as distributed energy resources.

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While BC Hydro expects conservation, renewables and grid improvements can supply 80-90% of expected demand growth through 2040, some gas-fired generation may still be needed to ensure reliability during periods of peak demand or renewable intermittency. The IRP contemplates using existing gas plants more strategically and potentially adding limited incremental gas capacity in the long-term if cost effective compared to other options. The preference is for any new resources to be as clean, renewable and consistent with BC’s climate goals as possible.

Through diligent implementation of its IRP, BC Hydro aims to remain a world leader in clean electricity while successfully managing the challenges and opportunities posed by increasing demand into the future. Ongoing monitoring, review and adjustments to priorities and programs will be key to optimally balancing environmental, social and economic factors during this important transition period for BC’s electricity system over the coming decades.

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