Early in 2018, BC Hydro announced a change to the net metering program that allowed consumers producing solar power to feed surplus electricity to the grid. Only one in 1,400 BC Hydro customers were in the program and only six were adding more than a tiny surplus. So, the policy change didn’t have much effect in 2018.
But the utility that for years could not estimate demand growth accurately and missed on the Site C cost estimate by at least $8 billion knew the danger posed by rooftop solar panels. How to expand a business empire if you allow ordinary people to interfere?
A recent report by the U.S. Energy Information Administration shows why electricity monopolies are worried about energy democracy.
EIA stated that generation from small-scale, customer-sited photovoltaic (PV) solar in New England is growing steadily and contributing to reduced demand for electricity from utilities. This is despite the region having less solar potential than most of the country.
The cost of each KWh of solar power produced by consumers has been dropping steadily, while prices charged by utilities have been rising. Continuation of these trends threatens the business models that companies like BC Hydro have enjoyed for decades.
In 2015, Massachusetts Institute of Technology reported on the future of photovoltaics:
Solar electricity generation is one of very few low-carbon energy technologies with the potential to grow to very large scale. As a consequence, massive expansion of global solar generating capacity to multi-terawatt scale is very likely an essential component of a workable strategy to mitigate climate change risk. Recent years have seen rapid growth in installed solar generating capacity, great improvements in technology, price, and performance…
If BC Hydro wanted consumers to benefit from inexpensive, non-destructive electricity, they would embrace both grid-scale and small-scale solar. With almost all of the power BC Hydro generates or buys from IPPs coming from hydro facilitates, the crown corporation is perfectly suited to utilize solar power as demand begins to grow. Electricity from the sun can reduce the need for hydroelectricity during daytime, thus saving hydropower to meet nighttime demand.
The Sun emits enough power onto Earth each second to satisfy the entire human energy demand for over two hours. Given that it is readily available and renewable, solar power is an attractive source of energy…
The amount of power collected from solar energy worldwide increased over 300-fold from 2000 to 2019. New technological advances over the last twenty years have driven this increased reliance on solar by decreasing costs, and new technological developments promise to augment this solar usage by further decreasing costs and increasing solar panel efficiency.Harvard University
As the efficiency of BC Hydro generating facilities declines — as is happening with climate change — solar and wind power will become crucial elements to keep appliances humming, lights burning and EVs running in BC.
I examined BC Hydro’s sources of energy, using annual report data from the last 25-years. Despite BC Hydro having issued more than a few press releases about generating station upgrades, the annual output of electricity per MW of installed capacity at hydro dams has been dropping.
Some of the reduction results from BC Hydro spilling water without generating electricity because of rising purchases of costly private power and soft demand in domestic and export markets. However, BC Hydro likes to deny they dump water for any reason beyond normal operations.
The drop in production of electricity per MW of capacity is substantial when comparing the most recent quinquennial period to the first charted above. It will likely continue dropping if drought conditions spread in North America.
(A reader told me of thorough scientific modelling studies (from the peer-reviewed literature) that showed decreasing precipitation patterns expected in the interior of British Columbia. More of that will be written about later.)
This week the U.S. Drought Monitor shows large sections of Alaska suffering “abnormally dry” conditions.
Climate change will alter flows of fresh water in ways not entirely predictable, but British Columbia may not be able to rely on hydropower to meet energy needs. Actions to discourage solar power, while good for short-term utility profitability, it is moronic public policy contrary to established energy trends.
From energy access to climate justice and from anti-privatisation to workers’ rights, people across the world are taking back power over the energy sector, kicking-back against the rule of the market and reimagining how energy might be produced, distributed and used.Energy-Democracy.net
Categories: BC Hydro