BC Hydro outlines how to meet energy needs for the next 20 years

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On August 2, BC Hydro filed the Integrated Resource Plan (IRP), which outlines our plan to meet British Columbia's forecast electricity needs for the next 20 years.

The IRP is a long-term look at how BC Hydro can cost-effectively meet our customers' needs, from continuing a focus on electricity conservation, to developing new renewable energy resources, and planning for emerging industries like liquefied natural gas.

See our visual guide to B.C.'s future energy needs

There's one thing clear about the future of electricity in British Columbia: demand for it is growing. Before conservation measures are considered, B.C.'s demand for electricity in 20 years is forecast to be 23,000 gigawatt hours per year (GWh/yr) greater than it is today – that's an increase of 40 per cent over what British Columbians use today.

That’s like powering five additional cities the size of Vancouver each year.

Learn more about the IRP and what it means for you:

Why electricity demand is increasing

The last major investment in BC Hydro's generating facilities was in the 1980s, when we completed construction on some of our heritage assets in the Columbia region. Since then, the population of B.C. has grown by about 1.6 million people, and continues to grow.

In two decades, British Columbia's population is forecast to be nearly 5.7 million people. That means we will have to support the energy needs of 1.1 million more British Columbians and the economic activity that they'll generate.

Even before we add more people to the province, the people that we already have are using more power than ever before. Our lives have changed dramatically since the last major investment in renewable energy sources.

For example, we have many more consumer electronics than we used to, and our wired lifestyles add up.

Consider our living rooms: an average a non-ENERGY STAR PVR uses about 270 kilowatt hours a year, and many British Columbians have more than one. Running two PVRs for a year can use 60 per cent of the power it takes for the average family to wash and dry their clothes over 12 months.

Looking ahead also means planning for the growth and adoption of technology like electric vehicles, which will increase the load needed to serve residential and business customers alike, through charging stations, new building codes and more widespread adoption of vehicles by consumers and fleets.

A growing economy means growing electricity needs

Industry and business in B.C., particularly in the northwest region, also need more electricity. For example, BC Hydro currently has adequate supply to meet the initial 3,000 GHW of anticipated load from new liquefied natural gas projects and will prepare to meet further requirements as they emerge.

But other industries, like mining, continue to grow and BC Hydro needs to consider those industries when mapping out what electricity demand will look like in 20 years. In B.C.'s northwest region alone, there are 11 mine sites either operating or in higher levels of development.

Large industrial customers like mines and pulp mills have major impacts on the province's overall electricity needs. A large industrial customer, such as a pulp mill, might use 400 GWh in a year, equal to the consumption of 40,000 households. A typical large office building of 20–25 storeys might consume 5 GWh in a year, equal to the consumption of 500 households.

Conservation: the first and best way to meet demand growth

BC Hydro has had a focus on the importance of electricity conservation since the introduction of Power Smart. And conservation will continue to play a key role in meeting future electricity needs.

Conservation measures, or what we call demand-side management, are cost-effective, have the lowest environmental impact, and directly help our customers reduce their electricity bills.

Going forward, the IRP recommends a continued focus on Power Smart, helping to build and maintain British Columbia's conservation culture. Through conservation we can reduce new electricity demand by 75 per cent.

Have your say on the IRP: public consultation continues until October 18, 2013

Developing the IRP included extensive consultation with the public, stakeholders and First Nations through 2011 and 2012, and working with outside technical experts and interested parties.

Now the public has the chance to comment through the next stage of consultation, by submitting written feedback online.

Share your thoughts on the Integrated Resource Plan by reviewing the full plan and submitting your feedback.

Public consultation on the IRP will take place until October 18, 2013.