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Extreme heat leaves Western electricity grid under stress

BC Hydro helping to reduce impacts

VANCOUVER: With high temperatures predicted for B.C. and much of western North America this weekend, concerns are being raised about the larger Western grid – which BC Hydro is connected to – and how it holds up.

Last week, abnormal temperatures in at least 11 states in the western United States sent thermostats soaring above 100 degrees Fahrenheit (or more than 38 degrees Celsius). In fact, the National Weather Service announced that more than 40 million people were under a heat advisory or excessive heat warning. And, while there is a small break in the heat wave for some this week, record-setting temperatures are expected again this week for many western states.

As a result of the extreme temperature, some states felt the strain on their power grids as residents stayed indoors and cranked up the air conditioning to get some relief. In Texas, some power plants had unexpected outages, causing 2.4 million homes to lose power. The Energy Reliability Council of Texas also asked residents to conserve energy to avoid rolling blackouts. In California, the California Independent System Operator issued a flex alert on Thursday and Friday asking residents to conserve power to reduce the strain on state’s power grid.

With temperatures predicted far above normal this weekend, BC Hydro wants to assure British Columbians despite the pressure across the Western grid, it will be able to continue to deliver power to its customers. BC Hydro has more than enough power to meet the increased demand on its system. And, unlike some of its neighbours to the south who are experiencing extremely low reservoir levels in some areas, BC Hydro is forecasting normal reservoir levels on average across the province this summer.

BC Hydro is well positioned with its flexible hydroelectric infrastructure and a surplus of clean generation. The vast majority of the power BC Hydro produces comes from clean hydroelectric resources, which essentially act as a battery allowing BC Hydro to ramp generation up and down at a moment’s notice. This helps ensure that the power is there when British Columbians need it the most.

In addition to BC Hydro meeting the needs of the province, BC Hydro’s trading subsidiary Powerex Corp. exported surplus electricity to many western states during their most challenging hours last week. In fact, over a period of several days, Powerex’s exports approached transmission limits to the U.S. Any revenue earned from these sales are used to help keep rates affordable for British Columbians.

As many states transition away from electricity generated from fossil fuels to clean power, flexible generation, such as BC Hydro’s, will play an even more significant role in the western electricity grid. Energy shortages in some U.S. states highlight the strain climate change is putting on electricity systems – especially those that are not prepared to handle extreme weather events. It also underlines the importance of flexible hydro-backed resources to meet demand when other clean resources (e.g. wind, solar) are not available and to continue to assist with the transition away from fossil fuels.

Ninety-eight per cent of the power generated by BC Hydro on average comes from clean or renewable resources, and the transition to clean will not be smooth for all jurisdictions. Power from the BC Hydro system can help bridge that gap because it is clean and readily available.

BC Hydro Media Relations
p. 604 928 6468