Fall 2020: Thanks for your input

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Fall 2020: Thanks for your input

We’ve been carefully studying B.C.’s electricity outlook for the next 20 years and coming up with various options to meet our customers’ changing needs.

Through the fall, you had the opportunity to share your input through surveys and workshops on what we should be prioritizing as we develop our plan.. We’re carefully reviewing this input and summarizing what we heard from you as we develop our draft plan. In the spring, we’ll be sharing the draft plan and asking for your feedback.

Read more about the planning context and options we’re considering.

B.C.’s clean electricity future

We expect to have enough power to meet our needs for at least the next 10 years, which means our immediate focus is on whether to continue with or make changes to our energy conservation programs and whether to renew electricity purchase agreements with Independent Power Producers as they expire, as well as what to do with some of our smaller hydroelectric facilities that are reaching end-of-life.

As we look beyond the next 10 years, we may need additional capacity in our system. Acquiring or building new resources, expanding existing infrastructure, and introducing optional time-varying rates are just some of the options we’re exploring that collected your input on.

Our system and its benefits

We’re fortunate in B.C. to have a large integrated hydroelectric system, which provides us many advantages. As you provide us your input on how we should prepare for the future, it’s important to understand some basics of our current system:

We’re powered by water: 96% of the electricity we produce is from clean, renewable resources.

We have built-in “batteries”: the large reservoirs behind our dams act as “batteries”, allowing us to store energy for future need. This also provides dependable back-up power for intermittent resources, like wind or solar, that aren’t always available.

We’re part of a larger grid: we’re part of a network of high-voltage transmission lines that connects B.C. with other utilities in western North America. This allows our trading subsidiary – Powerex – to buy and sell power with trading partners within the network, providing many benefits to us, including keeping our rates low.

Our rates are amongst the lowest in North America: the 2019 Hydro-Quebec report that compares electricity rates in North America found that we have the third lowest rates for our residential customers.

Key concepts in our planning: energy and capacity

As we think about the future of our system and continuing to meet the electricity needs of B.C., we must consider both the demand for energy from our customers and the capacity of our system.

To understand the concepts of energy and capacity and the role they play, it’s helpful to think of our electricity system as a 10-lane freeway. The number of lanes on the freeway determine how much space is available for cars at any time, this is capacity. The number of cars on the highway over a period of time is energy. While not all lanes are needed all the time, they’re needed during the morning and evening rush hours.

Like that 10-lane freeway, the capacity of our system is limited by the amount of electricity our system can generate and transmit at one time. While we don’t need to operate at full capacity all the time, we must ensure we have enough capacity to meet our customers’ needs when demand is highest – like during cold, dark evenings in the winter months.

Load forecasting and how we plan for uncertainties

Our Integrated Resource Plan will be developed around our 20-year load forecast, which will provide us with an idea of how much energy and capacity we expect to need to meet the needs of our customers. Our load forecast is developed by estimating the amount of electricity our residential, commercial and industrial customers will use over the next 20 years. As it’s difficult to predict future trends, this long-term forecasting is inherently uncertain, which is why we develop our forecast with various scenarios.

While the COVID-19 pandemic has reduced overall electricity demand in the province in the short term, electricity demand is expected to recover over time, and we're forecasting population growth over the next 20 years will increase the demand for electricity.

Additional increases could come from efforts to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by encouraging fuel switching through future electrification of home heating, transportation and other industries that are dependent on fossil fuels. If the provincial economy rebounds as expected to pre-COVID-19 levels within one to two years, our current forecast shows annual load growth over the next 20 years.

We updated our long-term demand forecast in December 2020, included a re-evaluation of the impacts of COVID-19 over the short and long term. Our draft actions for our Integrated Resource Plan we’ll be developed on this updated load forecast, which we’ll then share with you for input this upcoming spring.

 

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