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BC Hydro's Low Carbon Electrification Plan Launched at Last

Tom Hackney, BCSEA Policy Advisor
Monday, September 27, 2021

“From heat waves to wildfires, we are already seeing the devastating effects of climate change. Here in B.C., we have accomplished a lot with North America’s most progressive plan to reduce carbon pollution – but the scale of the crisis means we must act with even more urgency.”

With these words, Premier John Horgan announced BC Hydro’s five year low carbon electrification plan, which was filed for review by the BC Utilities Commission earlier this month.

It is appropriate that BC’s highest ranking politician should lead this announcement, demonstrating that the government sees Hydro’s electrification plan as a key part of the CleanBC climate action plan.  BCSEA has repeatedly called on the government to mandate BC Hydro to take a strong leadership role in low carbon electrification (see BCSEA comments on BC Hydro’s draft Integrated Resource Plan and Low-carbon electrification in BC: empowering BC Hydro to lead).

BCSEA looks forward to thoroughly assessing Hydro’s plan over the next few months at the Utilities Commission’s review. Meanwhile, here are some key features of the plan.

Hydro will invest $190 million in the next five years to promote “fuel switching” from fossil fuels to electricity in buildings, vehicles and industry.

Electrification measures for buildings include:

  • incentive top-ups for residential heat pump retrofits,
  • incentives in the affordable housing sector,
  • energy studies and support for large commercial customers.

Electrification measures for transportation include:

  • continued build-out of Hydro’s public fast charging network for electric vehicles,
  • funding and support to electrify commercial diesel vehicle fleets,
  • continued support for the CleanBC Go Electric BC program,
  • support for ferry electrification.

Electrification measures for industry include:

  • incentives, studies, research, pilots and energy manager services for electrification in sectors such as mining, forests, and natural gas operations.

Hydro’s electrification plan also includes supporting initiatives such as:

  • a public awareness campaign,
  • engagement with government on standards and policies,
  • engagement with supply chain players to develop and supply more heat pumps and electric vehicle technology,
  • development of rates to encourage fuel switching, and
  • provision of an energy program specialist for First Nations communities.

The plan also specifies that Hydro will spend $50 million to attract new, low carbon industry to BC.

Hydro estimates these initiatives, if fully realized, would cause electricity rates to be about 1% lower than rates would be without electrification. This is because Hydro has a current surplus of generation (which is expected to increase when the Site C hydroelectric project comes into service in 2024). If this surplus is not sold to Hydro’s customers, it would be sold at lower prices on the open market.

The actions in Hydro’s electrification plan, if fully implemented, would reduce BC’s GHG emissions by almost one million tonnes of CO2(equivalent) per year. This is certainly welcome. But there is much further to go to meet the legislated requirement to reduce BC’s GHG emissions by 25.4 million tonnes below the 2007 baseline by 2030.