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Regulator to expedite review of BC Hydro’s plans for new power

Utilities commission to review BC Hydro’s new load forecast, power call
The Burrard thermal power plant has 950-megawatt capacity, but was shut down in 2016.

The BC Utilities Commission (BCUC) is revising the scope and timetable for reviewing BC Hydro’s integrated resource plan, which was recently changed to reflect a need for more clean electricity.

BC Hydro filed its Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) in 2021, but last month announced an update to it. The BCUC was still in the process of reviewing 2021 IRP when BC Hydro updated it.

Whereas the previous IRP and load forecast did not foresee the need for any new power for the foreseeable future, the updated IRP and now calls for about 4,000 gigawatt hours (GWh) of clean power. About 3,000 GWh of that power would come from new "greenfield" generation sources, which means BC Hydro plans to issue a new power call. The last power call was 15 years ago and gave rise to a multi-billion dollar private power sector.

As BIV recently reported, experts believe most of the new power to be acquired in B.C. will likely come from new wind farm projects.

The BCUC is a utility watchdog responsible for ensuring ratepayers are protected. Now that BC Hydro has changed its load forecast and updated its IRP, the BCUC says its ongoing review of BC Hydro’s 2021 IRP will be changed to focus more immediately on BC Hydro’s new load forecasts and its near-term plans to acquire additional energy.

“The BCUC has pivoted the proceeding timetable to focus, in the near term, on BC Hydro’s load forecast scenarios and planned energy acquisition to address the accelerated timeline that BC Hydro has indicated it needs to acquire new energy,” the BCUC says.

The BCUC now expects to review those two issues on a priority basis, and aims to compete the review by the first quarter of 2024.

The BCUC will likely hear from critics worried about increasing electricity bills that BC Hydro does not need to finance any new power generation.

It has been argued, for example, that BC Hydro could address additional power needs by putting the Burrard thermal power plant back into operation, or using its entitlement under the Columbia River Treaty to use the hydro power that it currently sells to the U.S.

Proceeding documents on the BCUC’s review of BC Hydro’s integrated resource plans can be found here.

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