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New power call likely first of many: BC Hydro

BC Hydro executives explain at energy forum why they suddenly changed load forecast
BC Hydro's Al Leonard, left, and Maureen Daschuk discuss BC Hydro plans with Sharon Singh, partner at Bennett Jones, right.

As recently as December 2021, when BC Hydro filed its previous long-term load forecast, it was sticking to the idea it would not need any new power for many years to come, thanks to the big bolus of power that will hit the system sometime mid-decade when the $16 billion Site C dam comes online.

But earlier this year, BC Hydro announced that it would, in fact, need more power, and fairly quickly. While it plans to achieve some savings through energy conservation, BC Hydro plans to issue a new power call in the spring of next year for 3,000 gigawatt hours of new power.

“This is what is going to be probably the first of many calls,” Al Leonard, BC Hydro’s executive vice-president for Capital Infrastructure, said Thursday at a Greater Vancouver Board of Trade energy forum.

Whereas much of the independent power projects built under previous power calls were largely run-of-river, Leonard said under the next power call, the new power projects that get approved will “probably a mix of some wind and solar.”

However, BC Hydro won't pre-judge what independent power producers put forward.

“We are open to any technology," said Maureen Daschuk, executive vice-president of Integrated Planning for BC Hydro. "So we’re not saying this is a call for wind or this is a call for solar."

She did add, however, that B.C's large hydro-electric dams are natural complements to intermittent wind and solar.

BC Hydro has changed its load forecast in anticipation of new industrial customers, including new LNG plants and new mines, and population growth.

“We said the demand for electricity is higher than we thought it was going to be when we developed that first plan," Daschuk explained. “And the supply of electricity – especially from the biomass – was less than we thought it was going to be.”

She said BC Hydro’s interconnections process has been well subscribed of late.

“That’s the process where, if you’re interested in getting electricity from BC Hydro, you talk to us. That pipeline of potential customers has never been bigger than it is today.”

Some of those expressions of interest would be sizeable customers, including proposed green hydrogen projects, which would require huge amounts of power.

In addition to issuing a new power call, BC Hydro is also now working on a major new transmission line from Prince George to Terrace. Leonard said BC Hydro is currently working with First Nations on the project’s planning.

“We are looking to partner with nations on this, and actually have them own a portion of the line,” Leonard said.

Having First Nations as partners in the project may help make permitting smoother.

“By doing this up-front with the nations in particular we really feel will help to move things along," Leonard said.

As for BC Hydro's flagship energy project -- Site C dam -- it is about 80 per cent complete. BC Hydro had hoped to begin filling the new dam's reservoir this fall, but has decided to push that back to the fall of 2024.

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