December 2012 long-term electricity load forecast
BC Hydro updates its long-term electricity load forecast each year to inform long-range planning decisions.
Meeting customers' future demand for electricity requires us to consider what new electricity transmission and generation resources we'll need 10 and 20 years out.
What the latest forecast indicates
The December 2012 Long-Term Electricity Load Forecast [PDF, 1.8 MB] indicates a 1.7 per cent annual average growth rate in domestic electricity demand over the next 20 years, primarily through growth in population and economic activity.
That's equivalent to a 40 per cent increase in electricity requirements over 20 years, not accounting for savings that can be achieved through conservation and efficiency measures.
The forecast includes a look at customers' annual energy requirements (see BC Hydro's December 2012 Load Forecast – Annual Energy graph above), as well as their peak demand requirements. Both the energy and peak demand requirements are important to our planners.
"Annual energy demand" refers to the amount of energy used in a year. "Peak demand" indicates the amount customers demand from the system at any given hour within the year.
Typically, demand for electricity peaks in the winter months on a very cold day, and our system must be capable of meeting that peak.
What's considered in the forecast
Our load forecast is developed by looking at the future needs of our three major customer groups: residential, commercial and industrial. The forecast is based on factors such as projections in population, technology and energy conservation programs, among other factors.
An inherent part of any forecast is uncertainty — there's the potential that actual electricity use could be higher or lower than forecasted (see demand uncertainty bands in BC Hydro's December 2012 Load Forecast – Annual Energy graph above).
Beyond the forecast electricity demand reflected in the December 2012 Long-Term Electricity Load Forecast, we're also studying potential need from the emerging liquefied natural gas (LNG) industry on B.C.'s north coast.
We're working with industry and government to understand the future electricity requirements of the LNG industry so that it can be addressed in the Integrated Resource Plan [PDF, 1.0 MB].
A look at future need for new resources
To ensure we have enough resources to meet future demand, we compare our electricity forecast against projected supply in any given year.
The load resource balance identifies the amount of new electricity we'll need to acquire to meet growth in electricity demand. To get that number, we assess how much electricity we can count on from existing resources, and we factor in savings from planned conservation initiatives
The December 2012 Long-Term Electricity Load Forecast provides the latest information on projected savings from conservation initiatives. Factoring that in with the capability of our existing and planned electricity supply, we expect to have adequate energy over the next 10 years and adequate capacity for six years (see BC Hydro's Load Resource Balance – Annual Energy graph above, and BC Hydro's Load Resource Balance – Peak Capacity graph below). Beyond that timeframe, the need for additional resources emerges.
We expect to get additional insights into the future electricity requirements of the LNG industry this winter and spring. We also expect to complete and submit the Integrated Resource Plan to government by August 2013.