Stories & Features

Long-term energy outlook a story of energy, capacity needs

Mica Dam showing the reservoir

Site C will help meet the deficit expected to arrive within 10 years

It’s no surprise that the electricity needs in B.C. vary from year to year. This past winter brought record-breaking electricity demand as temperatures across the province plummeted. So when we look ahead to plan the electricity system, it’s with a bit of uncertainty that we determine what resources we’ll need to keep the lights on for homes and businesses.

One thing is clear: the demand for electricity is expected to grow –almost 40% over the next 20 years. There’s a few reasons why:

  • A projected population increase of more than 1 million additional residents in B.C. That’s more than the city of Vancouver.
  • Economic expansion, particularly in the Lower Mainland and other growing areas

And there are other factors that may further increase demand, such as an emerging Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) sector and the growing popularity of electric vehicles.

So how does our current system stack up against the anticipated needs? Well, as extensive as our supply is, in the long-term, it won’t be enough.

We’re focused on conservation to help get those needs down; we’ve got a target to meet at least 66% of future electricity growth through conservation. But even with innovative ways to help our customers save energy, we need still need a diverse portfolio of new power supply – including close to 20 wind, solar, and run of river projects currently under construction, adding a sixth turbine to the Revelstoke dam and building the Site C Clean Energy Project.

Meeting peak demand means reliable generating capacity

The difference between capacity and energy is key to understanding why Site C is an important part of meeting our future needs.

It’s the difference between meeting our needs at the highest point of the year (say, that record-breaking night we had this past January) and our day-to-day needs. While other generating sources can provide energy, not every generation type will provide capacity.

Some people might ask why Site C is a better choice compared to other renewables, such as wind, solar and run-of-river hydro. Many of these sources are intermittent; they’re not always available to generate electricity (e.g., when the wind is not blowing, the sun is not shining or the river is not running).

While intermittent resources provide energy for the BC Hydro system, they don’t provide dependable generating capacity and may not be available at times of peak demand. They would require additional capacity resources be built for backup.  

Without Site C, British Columbia would have a capacity deficit of 8% and an energy deficit of 2% in 10 years. That’s equivalent to the power needs of 100,000 homes.

Graph showing energy needs to F2036
Graph showing capacity needs to F2036

Investing in our heritage assets an important piece of the puzzle

You might also be wondering why we don’t just invest in our existing assets to help make up the gap. We are.

Two new units were recently installed to complete Mica Dam, and plans are underway to install a sixth unit at Revelstoke, but those investments aren’t enough.

Our available capacity from our existing resources will decrease starting in 2026. Four units at Mica Dam will be out of service for critical maintenance, one at a time for 12 to 18 months, reducing Mica's capacity by 410 megawatts for up to six years. Without Site C, that capacity gap gets even bigger.

Site C will come online in 2024, providing clean, reliable and affordable electricity in B.C. for more than 100 years – and delivering the stable, reliable capacity that we all need as we look ahead to B.C.’s future.