BC Hydro's aging facilities, like GM Shrum, need work

Aerial view of Williston Reservoir at WAC Bennet Dam
GM Shrum Generating Station at the W.A.C. Bennett Dam was built in 1968. The Peace River facility, which generates 23 per cent of all of BC Hydro's power, requires upgrades including the replacement of five 45-year-old turbines.

Turbines at GM Shrum Generating Station on the Peace River are being replaced

BC Hydro has delivered some of the most ambitious and important construction projects in the province. Electricity generated at our heritage dams — most built between the 1960s and 1980s — has powered B.C.'s quality of life and economic prosperity.

Two of those dams are on the Peace River, the backbone of British Columbia's hydroelectric system. And the largest — the GM Shrum Generating Station (GMS) built near Hudson's Hope in 1968 — now provides around 23 per cent of the total electricity BC Hydro generates.

New turbines will add generating power, enough to power 15,000 homes

Important equipment at GM Shrum is aging. Although they were considered state-of-the-art when they were installed, today the 45-year-old turbines just aren't what they used to be.

BC Hydro is replacing five turbines at GM Shrum with modern generating units, which will add 177 gigawatt hours of electricity annually, without requiring any additional water. That's enough to power 15,000 additional homes each year.

Installing the new turbines is just one of 19 projects that will upgrade GM Shrum and the WAC Bennett Dam. Projects like these are designed to ensure that our largest facilities, like those on the Peace River, are ready to meet B.C.'s highest demands for power, such as the winter electricity peak.

As B.C. prospers, power demand will increase

Prudent upgrades and repairs to existing infrastructure won't be enough to meet the growing demand for electricity down the road. Electricity demand is expected to grow as much as 40 per cent over the next 20 years.

As BC Hydro plans ahead, there's a need to look to new sources of generation to ensure that future British Columbians have access to the same reliable clean hydroelectricity that has powered British Columbia since the 1960s. Even with BC Hydro's ambitious conservation target — reducing anticipated demand growth by 66% through conservation by 2020 — B.C. will require more power.

BC Hydro has undergone a strategic long-term Integrated Resource Plan to determine the best way to meet B.C.'s future electricity needs. To meet anticipated electricity demand, the plan recommends building Site C, a proposed third dam and hydroelectric generating station on the Peace.

Subject to approvals but planned to be in service by 2025, the Site C Clean Energy project would be a source of clean, renewable and cost-effective electricity for more than 100 years. Site C would power the equivalent of around 450,000 homes per year.

To put it into perspective, Site C would deliver about 35 per cent of the electricity that GM Shrum does, but with a reservoir that's only 5 per cent of the size.

BC Hydro is committed to a role as stewards of some of the most important assets in British Columbia. It will take $1.7 billion a year for the next 10 years to maintain and upgrade existing dams, transmission lines and other infrastructure, and billions more to build Site C if the project is approved.

These hydroelectric facilities are vital to keeping power in B.C. clean and reliable, and vital to keeping BC Hydro electricity rates among the lowest in North America.