25 Years of Power Smart: DSM & the role of conservation

Image of map showing how many homes Power Smart powers annually

'DSM' is the most cost-effective way to meet B.C.'s growing energy needs

First in a series on BC Hydro Power Smart, which celebrates its 25th anniversary in 2014.

It's a cryptic acronym that means nothing to most people outside BC Hydro. But it means everything to Power Smart.

DSM, the common reference to Demand Side Management within BC Hydro, is what drives Power Smart programs, and it has played a huge role in keeping our electricity rates among the lowest in North America.

Here's how it works.

It takes billions of dollars to build and maintain extra generating stations, transmission lines and other infrastructure to meet the growing demand for power in B.C. By contrast, reducing that growth in demand by advocating conservation — Power Smart programs, incentives and education that help customers cut costs — is pretty inexpensive.

Without conservation, we'd need to build more generating stations

We still need to build, but not as much as we would without conservation.

Power Smart programs are tied directly to the gigawatt-hour savings they produce. And it's vital that those programs continue to deliver on a reduction in that demand growth so that BC Hydro's load planners — the folks tasked with predicting how fast demand will grow and how much more generating power we'll need to meet that demand — can do their jobs with reasonable accuracy.

It still surprises people that we want British Columbians to buy less of what we sell. Today, efficient use of power and changes in behaviour in B.C. save the equivalent amount of electricity to meet the annual needs of more than 440,000 homes.

Power Smart & DSM key to delivering reliable, affordable power

Make no mistake, demand for electricity will continue to grow in B.C., because the population, economy, and advances in technology demand it. Today's average Canadian home features at least six more electrical devices than in 1990.

DSM's job is to reduce the impact of that technological and economic growth. The province's Clean Energy Act directs BC Hydro to lean on DSM to reduce growth in demand — by efficiencies and Power Smart behaviour — by 66% by 2020.

That's a lot of gigawatt hours, and DSM helps in a variety of ways, including several strategies that Power Smart pioneered in North America.

Residents, businesses learn to avoid wasting electricity

There are the ad campaigns and ongoing education that have inspired us all to waste less electricity, actions like turning off lights in unused rooms, turning down the thermostat and buying energy-efficient appliances and lighting.

We've also made it easier for thousands of businesses in B.C. to embrace energy efficient business practices. We've used financial incentives to cut the time it takes for businesses to be paid back — in savings on their BC Hydro bills — on the investments they make in energy-efficient technologies. We hold workshops and train energy managers who work in companies across B.C. to build knowledge and capacity so that energy efficiency becomes a way of doing business.

And rather than get into the business of selling something like energy-efficient light bulbs, we've educated staff in retailers across B.C. about energy efficient products. It has helped change the products carried on store shelves, and most importantly, it helps customers when they're making their purchasing decisions.

Behind the scenes, we've also been active in working with authorities who set standards on the efficiency of technologies. You may have heard that by the end of this year, there will be no new stock of energy-sucking incandescent 40, 60, 75 and 100-watt bulbs available in B.C. — and that really helps Power Smart's cause.

DSM keeps us on track in our mandate to slow the increase in electricity demand, and that keeps rates for residents and businesses in B.C. affordable.