BC Hydro's Integrated Resource Plan Released

Today, at long last, BC Hydro released its intergrated resource plan. 

BC Hydro advises on its website that it has been accepted by Government.

Click here for a link to the full IRP.

Notable is the inclusion of a Clean Energy Strategy [pdf] which outline's BC Hydro's strategy to support the province's clean energy sector and promote clean energy opportunities for First Nations communities.

More analysis to come....

BC Government Delays BC Hydro's Long Term Forecast

Today, the BC Government announced that it has once again delayed the delivery of BC Hydro's Integrated Resource Plan to Cabinet until August 3, 2013 due to uncertainty of the electricity requirements for the prospective liquefied natural gas (LNG) export projects to be located in northern British Columbia. The announcement stated that Government, BC Hydro and LNG proponents are currently negotiating electricity-supply agreements. The good news for the IPP sector is that the use of electricity is under serious consideration.

The potential size of the LNG load is extraordinarily large.  Yet the current electricity service to the region is insufficient to meet the potential demand. From what we know, energy/electricity supply decisions at Kitimat and Prince Rupert have not been made. There are options here; some low-carbon, some not so much. But because of the long lead time needed to meet the electricity supply requirements, careful planning must take place before the big decisions are made. But at this point in time, no prospective LNG proponent has the necessary agreements in place to start construction of the LNG facilities. The great BC LNG infrastructure build-out won't get started until the planning is done and big decisions are made.

With this new industry, the BC Government has the opportunity and is truly in a unique position to create a lasting legacy for the North, for the regional First Nations and the entire Province of British Columbia.  But leadership here is critical. And, most importantly, the Province must have a development plan that addresses GHG emissions, environmental stewardship and development of legacy infrastructure.  Giving BC Hydro some additional time to submit its 20 year supply/demand forecast is a good decision given the current uncertainty of the potential massive load in the North and the general enthusiasm for realistic load forecasts.

The big question is: whether the outcome of the discussions between Government, BC Hydro, and LNG proponents for the supply of electricity pre-determines the contents of the ultimate IRP?

BC Hydro Draft Integrated Resource Plan

Today, BC Hydro released the much anticipated draft Integrated Resource Plan - 2012 (IRP) (Executive Summary and draft IRP Discussion Guide) which is a long-term forecast on supply and demand for electricity in British Columbia.  Essentially, the IRP is to expected to be used as a key document for long-term electricity planning in the Province.

The draft report contains 14 recommended actions and is released to the public today for consultation until July 6, 2012. Then, sometime before December 2012, BC Hydro will submit the final IRP for approval by the BC Cabinet. People are invited to have a say at an IRP consultation event hosted by BC Hydro.

As expected, the draft IRP is long on measures to encourage energy conservation and efficiency but also includes a few recommendations for much needed infrastructure capital investment for both capacity (Revelstoke Dam upgrade) and transmission (Prince George to Terrace upgrade) purposes. The $7.9 Billion Site C Dam is proposed to move ahead with an expected online date of 2020. In the meantimne, the spot electricity market, the Canadian Entitlement and Burrard Thermal are recommended to used as energy supply gap fillers. 

For the BC renewable energy sector, the most noteworthy draft recommendation is:  

RECOMMENDED ACTION #8: Develop energy procurement options to acquire up to 2,000 gigawatt hours per year from clean energy producers for projects that would come into service in the 2016-2018 time period.

The prospect of new BC power calls is of course welcome news to the sector, but there is caution: (a) this is a draft IRP only; and (b) the draft IRP notes that any new electricity procurement decisions would made only when there is more certainty of the demand.  Most of the new power is expected from wind, run-of-river and biomass project as these are proven to be the lowest-cost options, but geothermal and ocean technologies may also be considered. The objective in the BC Clean Energy Act that the Province "generate 93% from clean or renewable sources" effectively prohibits new power from natural gas facilities, which is good news from a greenhouse gas emissions standpoint.

Much of the long term electricity load is contingent on the development of the proposed LNG export projects on BC's Northwest coast. If the LNG export facilities are built, the demand for electricity in the Province could exceed 25% of the existing BC Hydro load (based on an estimated 4 LNG plants at approximate use of 4,000 GWh/year each. For context, the current BC Hydro load is approximately 60,000 GWh/year). Decisions on the LNG export projects are still under consideration by the proponents, with some decisions expected before the end of the year.  

With bi-partisan political and First Nations support for the proposed LNG export projects, the British Columbia Government's $20 billion BC LNG Energy Strategy may yet be realized. And if so, be certain that it will be all hands on deck in British Columbia for the next few years to support this significant new energy intesive economic opportunity.

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