BC Hydro set a new daily record for power consumption earlier this year as cold winter weather increased the demand for electricity.
Of course, it's our job at BC Hydro to keep the lights on. To be successful, we need to be able to meet our customers' electricity needs today – like on these cold winter nights – while also planning ahead for the future.
Although the demand for electricity fluctuates in the short term, our long-term forecasts show that B.C.'s electricity needs will grow by almost 40 per cent over the next 20 years. This increase is being driven by a projected population increase of more than one million residents as well as economic expansion.
And going forward, the B.C. government's Climate Leadership Plan will require that 100 per cent of the supply of electricity acquired by BC Hydro come from clean or renewable sources, with allowances for reliability.
The long-term trend is clear: new sources of clean electricity will be required to power our province. As extensive as BC Hydro's electricity supply is today, it will not be enough to meet B.C.'s long-term electricity needs, even with BC Hydro's ambitious conservation programs that are targeted to meet at least 66 per cent of future electricity growth by 2020. That's why BC Hydro is re-investing in its existing hydroelectric assets and building the Site C project.
Site C would provide both energy and dependable capacity for our electricity system. With its reservoir, Site C would always be available to generate electricity when needed. Many smaller renewables, such as wind, solar and run-of-river hydro, are intermittent. This means they are not always available to generate electricity (e.g., when the wind is not blowing, the sun is not shining or the river is not running).
Site C is the most cost-effective way to meet our future electricity needs. An independent Joint Review Panel concluded that: "Site C would be the least expensive of the alternatives, and its cost advantages would increase with the passing decades as inflation makes alternatives more costly."
The Panel also stated: "Site C, after an initial burst of expenditure, would lock in low rates for many decades, and would produce fewer greenhouse gas emissions per unit of energy than any source save nuclear."
Now is an ideal time to build Site C. The project is being financed at historically low interest rates; low commodity prices are helping to keep the costs of materials down; and the slowdown in the natural resource sector means skilled workers are available just as Site C construction ramps up.
Construction of Site C began in the summer of 2015 and will be completed in 2024. Once in service, the project will be a new source of clean, reliable and affordable electricity, helping us to keep the lights on for generations of British Columbians.
Dave Conway is BC Hydro's Community Relations Manager for Site C.