When I report quantities of electricity sold by BC Hydro, the numbers, taken from BC Hydro’s quarterly and annual reports, include these classes of customers:
- Light industrial and commercial,
- Large industrial.
I exclude “Other Sales” because it is a category the utility has been using to create an illusion of growing domestic demand.
BC Hydro, in response to my FOI inquiry, admits that in the past three fiscal years, most — about 85% — of electricity sales in this category is where, in their words, “consumption is external to BC.”
As the chart indicates, this game began a few years ago, a time when a pattern of flat demand had become firmly established. That situation was one BC Hydro adamantly refused to admit.
With static demand, utility managers believed citizens would not support steadily increasing purchases of private power and an aggressive asset acquisition program.
Their solution was to massage the numbers. This involved including sales to customers outside BC as part of domestic demand.
If we had experienced more truthfulness from BC Hydro, the province would not be spending billions on Site C. Not only is the project an option more expensive than alternatives, domestic demand does not support the addition of any new sources of power beyond those involving upgrades of existing generating facilities.
BC Government’s uneconomic policy:
In three fiscal years (2015, 2016 & 2017), BC sold the Canadian entitlement to Columbia River power to customers outside BC and realized $357 million. Meanwhile, BC Hydro paid IPPs $1.2 billion for the same quantity of power. #SiteC #bcpoli
— Norm Farrell – In-Sights.ca (@Norm_Farrell) May 16, 2018
May 17 update
In comments, a reader says:
…everything I’ve read here… seems to show only shallow understanding of system requirements, if any at all.
…if the system peak demands the additional capacity, then the squawks if it were not added and the system crashed would far outweigh what’s going on now. Obviously the current system meets the average need at present, but that doesn’t mean it’s not close on peak.
In fact it is the writer of that quote that has a shallow understanding of BC Hydro operations. Not only has total consumption been flat since 2005, so has peak demand. The evidence is drawn from BC Hydro’s own reports.
The chart ignores capacity contracted from IPPs that measures in the thousands of megawatts. BC Hydro’s internal capacity can be boosted by upgrading or adding to generators at existing dams (Revelstoke 6, for example). Meeting peak demand is not a problem in the forseeable future. The utility’s capacity/consumption ratio has never been in better shape. Meeting peak demand is not a justification for Site C.
The person commenting worries about integrating renewables with BC’s existing power network. That is typical of people involved in old style utilities. Renewables are disruptive, which makes people in the power business uncomfortable.
The Economist noted that renewables do not just lower prices; when used by customers, they also eat into demand. When fewer people rely on the grid, the industry faces a “utility death spiral.”
#SiteC proponents want us to believe that human resources are available to build a dam on a difficult site but integrating renewables is too complex to be achieved in BC, even if it is done elsewhere in the world. #bcpoli
— Norm Farrell – In-Sights.ca (@Norm_Farrell) May 18, 2018