B.C. will need more green energy sooner than expected, prompting an historic call for power by the provincial Crown corporation that supplies almost all British Columbians with electricity.
Figures released Thursday (June 15) show provincial demand for electricity will increase by 15 per cent between now and 2030 because of population growth and consumers adopting new technologies like electric vehicles and heat pumps.
BC Hydro — which generates and delivers electricity to 95 per cent of British Columbians — has accordingly launched the first call for new power in 15 years.
BC Hydro expects to issue the call in spring 2024 for the additional power to be available as early as 2028.
While the details of the call still have to be worked, two broad conditions have already emerged. BC Hydro, which generates about 98 of its power generation from clean or renewable resources already, will only acquire electricity, which is 100 per cent clean and renewable, including wind and solar.
New power projects will also include a yet-to-be-determined minimum level of participation by First Nations.
Premier David Eby framed the coming call for power as a response to climate change and as an economic opportunity during a news conference Thursday morning.
“As we face the threat of a record fire season across Canada, the need to switch to clean power to fight climate change has never felt more urgent,” he said. “To guarantee the affordable power for this important transition, we’re working in partnership with First Nations and BC Hydro to generate more of the clean electricity that British Columbia needs to build our economy, and grow our role as a clean-energy superpower,” he added.
Eby added that industries from around the world are looking to decarbonize their operations and B.C. is ready to supply the power that they need in pointing to possible synergies stemming from the call.
Electricity from B.C., for example, could be used to create “blue” — read: clean — hydrogen to be used in steel production. This competitive advantage could help attract additional business to British Columbia, be it from Canada or abroad, he said.
BC Hydro and the provincial government will design the call following consultations with First Nations, industry and stakeholders.
Chris O’Riley, BC Hydro’s CEO, said this call for power is a request for proposals from third parties for long-term supplies of clean electricity to BC Hydro.
“We currently have about 25 per cent of our supply coming from independent power producers,” he said. “So this is extending that, really focusing on renewable power.”
O’Riley added he expects the share of independent power producers supplying BC Hydro to exceed 25 per cent. The mix of power would also change with solar and wind power complementing power generated through hydro-electricity, ultimately leading to lower prices.
A new task force will also provide additional advice.
Eby said government expects the increased demand for electricity to continue, adding that the ability to deliver clean electricity has never been more critical.
“We have established a task force with BC Hydro to figure out how we can deploy electricity faster, get transmission lines built, so that major industries can decarbonize, so what we can cut our emissions down across the province and increase the opportunities for transmissions across borders, across to Washington State and into Alberta as they decarbonize as well.”
The province also announced that it is putting $140 million toward the B.C Indigenous Clean Energy Initiative to support Indigenous-led power projects that may otherwise not be competitive due to their smaller size.
It’s a funding partnership between the province, the federal government and the New Relationship Trust, an Indigenous-led non-profit organization that delivers federal and provincially funded programs supporting Indigenous capacity development and reconciliation.
Energy Minister Josie Osborne said First Nations are key partners.
“Funding for the B.C. Indigenous Clean Energy Initiative will open up new opportunities for First Nations in clean-energy projects, including wind and solar, create local jobs, and support Indigenous self-determination,” she said.
Thursday’s announcement happens against the backdrop of significant changes in transportation and heating technologies.
The number of light-duty electric vehicles rose from 5,000 in 2016 to more than 100,000 in the past six years and about 10 per cent of homes now use heat pumps. Both numbers are expected to go up in the coming years.