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Our Energy Future: BC Hydro's Integrated Resource Plan

BC Hydro is releasing its Integrated Resource Plan. I expect it will be posted on the BC Hydro website on or around 28 May.

"The IRP will establish BC Hydro's plan for conservation and set its course for acquiring sufficient generation and transmission resources to reliably and cost-effectively meet customers' anticipated future electricity needs."

This is BC Hydro's major planning document for resource acquisition, addressing the next twenty years. I encourage people to attend this -- it's important and should be very interesting. See the session locations/schedule in our Events calendar

Electrical load

Expect to see planning for a big increase in electricity demand, as the surge in industrial demand in the north starts to get included into the load forecast. Hydro now includes two liquid natural gas plants in the forecast (Douglas Channel and Kitimat) -- these together will increase demand by some 4,500 GWh per year by 2015 (roughly an 8% increase in BC Hydro's total load right there). This does not include a LNG plant Shell is considering that would use 6,000 GWh/y. There is also a significant increase in load from expected mining developments along the soon-to-be-build Northwest Transmission Line north of Skeena.

The above does not include any load increase from extending the grid to the northeast, i.e. the gas fields around Nelson and the Horn River basin. Hydro is likely to lay out options for this, for the government to decide on.

Supply options

This plan will provide analyses of cost, risk, energy firmness and other salient attributes for available energy options. This will include energy conservation. The big question is whether BC Hydro and government will try to continue to meet the Clean Energy Act's requirement that energy conservation should meet two thirds of new load -- an easy target without the LNG plants; challenging with them.

There is extensive analysis of renewable energy. There will also be analysis of natural gas generation. Information will be provided on the controversial Site C dam proposal for the Peace River, which would provide about enough energy to meet the demand of the two LNG plants. The data on Site C may become the basis for government to make a more-or-less final decision to proceed with Site C, i.e. instruct BC Hydro to include Site C in its planning (the dam is currently undergoing environmental review). There will be important analysis on the best timing for providing new resources, including Site C.

Capacity issues

BC Hydro now says that its system is capacity-constrained, i.e. it is running short of generation options that can be switched on quickly to meet peak load. BC Hydro already plans to build out the remaining capacity opportunities at the Revelstoke and Mica dams. Site C would provide some 1,100 MW of capacity. However, BC Hydro is also talking about developing some 700 MW of single-cycle gas-fired generators that can be brought on line quickly to meet peak load, especially in the northwest, where the need is greatest.

BC Hydro has noted that the 93% "clean or renewable" standard in the Clean Energy Act is becoming challenging to meet. Some interest groups would like to see the government remove this constraint, and allow the unfettered development of more gas-fired generation to meet load.

BCSEA's Take

The position of the BC Sustainable Energy Association is that BC Hydro should strive first to meet its new load with energy conservation resources, which we believe to be the most cost-effective. We believe that government should not remove the 93% "clean or renewable" standard," and that BC Hydro should not develop single-cycle gas-fired peaker plants. Peak energy needs should be met with a combination of conservation, renewable energy and other measures. We can and should continue to strive to avoid more fossil fuel based generation and to minimize the greenhouse gas emissions of our electrical system.