‘Unprecedented’ construction planned by BC Hydro
BC Hydro is increasing its capital plan by 50% with a focus on electrification and emissions-reduction infrastructure.
- B.C. Premier David Eby announced a $36-billion investment for community and regional infrastructure projects that will deliver electricity.
- This represents an increase of 50% over BC Hydro’s previous capital plan.
- These new construction projects are projected to support 10,500 to 12,500 jobs on average annually.
- The province and BC Hydro are also implementing a new streamlined, one-window approval process to speed up approvals
The Whole Story:
BC Hydro plans to embark on an “unprecedented level of construction” over the next 10 years, building out the province’s electricity system.
“We must expand our electrical system like never before, to power industrial development, to power our homes and businesses, to power our future,” said Premier David Eby. “Clean, affordable energy will help us meet that opportunity, while reducing pollution, securing good-paying jobs and creating new opportunities for our growing economy.”
At the B.C. Natural Resources Forum in Prince George, Eby announced a $36-billion investment for community and regional infrastructure projects that will deliver electricity to people and businesses in the future.
BC Hydro’s updated 10-year capital plan, Power Pathway: Building BC’s energy future, includes almost $36 billion in community and regional infrastructure investments throughout the province between 2024-25 and 2033-34. This represents an increase of 50% over BC Hydro’s previous capital plan ($24 billion), and includes a significant increase in electrification and emissions-reduction infrastructure projects (nearly $10 billion, up from $1 billion).
These new construction projects are projected to support 10,500 to 12,500 jobs on average annually, and will increase and maintain BC Hydro’s capital investments as major projects like Site C are completed.
Officials say the plan reflects growing demand for electricity across sectors due to population growth and housing construction, increased industrial development, and people and businesses switching from fossil fuels to clean electricity, among other factors. It includes:
- building new high-voltage transmission lines and supporting infrastructure from Prince George to Terrace to meet industrial customer demand in the north coast area, including in the mining sector;
- building or expanding substations and installing new equipment to support residential housing growth and transit electrification in high-growth areas across the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island; and
- upgrading B.C.’s dams and generating facilities to make them safer, more reliable and more efficient.
“We’re taking action to build a clean energy future and create thousands of construction jobs for skilled workers as major infrastructure projects like Site C reach completion,” said Josie Osborne, minister of energy, mines and low carbon innovation. “Together with our first call for power in over 15 years, BC Hydro’s new capital plan – with almost $4 billion in spending every year for the next decade – will drive economic growth for communities all over the province and ensure households and businesses can power up with clean, reliable and affordable electricity.”
BC Hydro’s goal is to acquire new sources of clean, renewable electricity, including wind and solar. They argue that B.C. is well positioned to add additional intermittent renewables to the grid as its integrated, flexible system of hydro-electric dams act as batteries. The reservoirs store water and allow BC Hydro to ramp production up or down almost instantly, providing a reliable back up for when the sun isn’t shining or the wind isn’t blowing.
“Our electricity grid is already one of the cleanest in the world, and to meet the scale and pace of what’s required, we need to invest in our system and build for the future,” said Chris O’Riley, president and CEO of BC Hydro. “We have already taken significant steps toward sourcing the clean electricity needed to meet the future demand, and we are now embarking on the next step, our $36 billion 10-year capital plan, which includes everything from investing in our generation assets and large transmission infrastructure to the substations and local wires that deliver power to homes and businesses across the province.”
In addition to the 10-year capital plan, Eby announced that the province and BC Hydro are implementing a new streamlined, one-window approval process to speed up approvals to get electricty to in-demand industries faster, and to support jobs.
“Industrial greenhouse gas emissions make up about 40% of B.C.’s total, so we need to work closely with the private sector to electrify rapidly to meet our CleanBC climate goals by 2030 and keep B.C. industries strong and competitive,” said George Heyman, minister of environment and climate change strategy. “This new, one-window approach will help companies reach final investment decisions sooner so they can move to a decarbonized future that will benefit our province for generations to come and meet the growing global demand and opportunities for low carbon commodities.”
The process will result in the Climate Action Secretariat and BC Hydro managing streamlined approvals for industrial electrification projects between the CleanBC Industry Fund and BC Hydro’s Large Customer Low Carbon Electrification programs. Officials say that transitioning to a one-window process will speed up approvals, increase efficiency, and deliver more funding certainty for proponents.
Power crisis in the prairies
The announcement comes at a time when record-breaking weather prompted the province of Alberta to issue an emergency alert warning residents to conserve power due to increased demand. The province stated that extreme cold resulting in high power demand placed the Alberta grid at a high risk of rotating power outages. Officials asked Albertans to do the following:
- Albertans are asked to immediately limit their electricity use to essential needs only
- Turn off unnecessary lights and electrical appliances
- Minimize the use of space heaters
- Delay use of major power appliances
- Delay charging electrical vehicles and plugging in block heaters
- Cook with microwave instead of stove
One of Alberta’s recently announced strategies to address power concerns is exploring nuclear reactors.