Operations Planning

Operations planning process

The operation of a large and complex electric system requires careful study and continuous planning. BC Hydro must plan ahead to account for the variable factors that can affect the hour-to-hour, day-to-day and long-term supply of electricity.

Operations planning is guided by:

  • Safety of lives and property
  • Legal and social obligations
  • Present and future power demand
  • Maximizing the value of generating resources

The planning process requires a wide array of input information, such as weather forecasts, domestic load forecasts, economic parameters, market forecasts, water supply forecasts, and fuel price and availability. In addition, system constraints, individual component constraints, dam safety, flood routing, environmental and other physical data are taken into account. Besides this technical information, there are the social and governmental organizations that BC Hydro consults with in its planning process ensuring every operations planning decision is well-rounded and complete.

BC Hydro divides its complex operations planning process into time horizons:

  1. Long-term system planning
  2. Medium-term Operations Planning – one to four years
  3. Short-term Operations Planning – next day to 12 months
  4. Same-day Operations

Long-term system planning

An electric generation system must have sufficient firm energy capability and capacity to meet electricity demand. Long-term system planning ensures that adequate resources will be available to meet future electricity demands. Resource acquisition requirements are determined in accordance with policy to balance supply and demand. BC Hydro has long-term integrated electricity planning studies that it conducts to develop and analyze resource portfolios for the future. This process includes the consideration of environmental and social factors in addition to the economic and cost factors.

Medium-term operations planning

Medium-term operations planning provides guidance for marketing decisions and for the operation of the electric system. Studies are performed to evaluate the capability of the existing system to meet operational requirements, given the uncertainties of inflow and electricity demand, and various operating factors.

Short-term operations planning

The purpose of this planning function is to define operating plans for each reservoir, generating station, and individual generating units in order to meet domestic and contracted power requirements.

Same-day operations

Same-day operations planning meets demands and contractual power agreements with power production, hour by hour. The plans are adjusted to meet changes in conditions during the day. The hour-by-hour generation schedules are forwarded to the generation operations centres for implementation, allowing BC Hydro to make almost instantaneous decisions about how and where electricity is going.