BC Hydro

Sweden has a public utility not stuck in the 1960s

Vattenfall AB is a state-owned employer of 20,000 that is one of Europe’s largest producers and retailers of electricity and heat. Headquartered near Stockholm, its main markets are Sweden, Germany, the Netherlands, Denmark, and the UK. 

Vattenfall’s Hollandse Kust Zuid wind farm (HKZ) is a complex with four zones off the Dutch North Sea coast between The Hague and Zandvoort, each with 375 MW capacity. The company started construction in 2021 and the project delivered its first energy in 2022. The wind farm is scheduled to be fully operational in 2023, with total capacity of 1,500 MW. HKZ will be the largest operating offshore wind farm and according to Vattenfall, the first one built without government subsidies.

By comparison, construction of BC Hydro’s Site C dam was announced in 1979 was shelved in 1983, resurrected in 1989, cancelled in 1993, returned to life in 2001, promoted in 2004, moved ahead in 2008, and given final approval in 2010. Construction began in 2015 and optimists expect the dam to generate energy in 2026.

Multinational chemical giant BASF and Allianz Capital Partners acquired half of the HKZ project in 2021 for about C$2 billion. Vattenfall recently obtained the right to develop the N-7.2 offshore wind power project off the German North Sea coast. It will create enough electricity to power one million homes.

A mere 47 years of effort, with 12 years of construction, Site C in British Columbia will produce electricity for 5.5x the per MW cost of the HKZ project that needed only a one to two year timeline for construction.

The Site C budget was doubled in February 2021 and we are unlikely to get the next shocking update until after the 2024 provincial election. Of course the European project floods no Class 1 agricultural land, destroys no traditional Indigenous territories, and carries no risk of ruinous collapse. Using the current estimate, we can chart capital costs of capacity for the European and Canadian ventures.

I invite readers to look beyond a comparison of the noted energy projects to consider long term objectives of two publicly owned energy companies.

BC Hydro is focused on doing what it has done since the 1960s. The public utility actively discourages customer access to self-generation technology. It refuses to employ its own low-cost generating facilities, preferring instead to build the most expensive projects and to pay favoured private corporations rates that are 3x to 5x the cost of power.

Sweden’s Vattenfall is an innovator, creating permanent jobs and pursuing solutions to address the climate crisis. The company’s objective is to make fossil-free living possible within one generation. Examples follow.

Along with iron ore miner LKAB and steelmaker SSAB, Vattenfall is involved in HYBRIT (Hydrogen Breakthrough Ironmaking Technology). It’s an initiative to create fossil free steel using renewable electricity and green hydrogen with the goal of fully eliminating CO2 emissions throughout the value chain from mining to steel production.

Vattenfall recognizes that use of plastics is essential and believes these carbon-rich products can be made without worsening the climate crisis. It says:

Plastic is made up of 85% carbon. This carbon must come from somewhere and traditionally this means using fossil fuels such as oil. We believe a new kind of plastic production industry is possible, and the result can be 100% fossil free plastic.

100% fossil free plastics

Excess heat from algae cultivation is used for district heating for up to 2,500 apartments in Gustavsberg, outside of Stockholm. Vattenfall’s innovative installation uses waste heat from an industrial process that would otherwise be lost.

Vattenfall is involved in the Symbizon project in The Netherlands. It utilizes bifacial solar panels, a sun-tracking system, and strip cultivation to produce food and improve farm incomes.

In Germany, a massive heat accumulator is located on a Vattenfall property near Berlin. Like a battery, it will store heat created with surplus renewable energy and deliver that energy when needed by the municipal heating grid.

The company will build the world’s first hydrogen cluster as part of an offshore wind farm in The Netherlands. Wind turbines will be equipped with electrolysers for production of green hydrogen.

Vattenfall aims to develop an offshore wind power-based hydrogen supply infrastructure on the west coast of Sweden and St1 plans to produce one million cubic meters of electro fuels, primarily targeted for sustainable aviation fuel using the fossil-free hydrogen. 

Corporate leaders at Vattenfall recognize that innovation is an imperative business function. According to NEXT Studios, “Innovative companies—and the leaders who run them—embrace change.

BC Hydro and leaders who direct the company refuse innovation and embrace outdated technology. It is not only stupid, it is dangerous for humanity.

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Categories: BC Hydro, Energy - Wind, Site C

7 replies »

  1. What you’re saying is Premier WAC Bennett should never have expropriated the existing electric companies here in British Columbia.


    • No Vattenfall is, like BC Hydro, a publicly owned company.

      Bennett knew that private electric companies were disinterested in serving less densely populated and less profitable parts of British Columbia. BC Hydro was a solution that worked very well for 40 years.

      It could be a success again, if it had different objectives and new leadership. Vattenfall provides a model.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. But Vattenfall is not like British Columbia when it comes to transmission lines etc., or is the point here that we don’t need the existing sources of electricity…

    Populations: Square Kilometres
    Sweden 10.42 Million; 450,295
    Germany 83.13 Million; 357,021
    Netherlands 17.53 Million; 41,526
    Denmark 5.857 Million; 42,943.9
    UK 67.33 Million; 244,820

    British Columbia Pop. 5.071 Million; 944,735


  3. Thank you for the information about Vattenfall. Your article led me to further reading and the conclusion that a questionable company can change goals and leadership and emerge like the mythical phoenix. The government of B.C. should notice.

    Vattenfall operates offshore wind farms in Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Germany, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom. The company saw an opportunity to create and enhance technology for production of green energy. Benefits accrue to its owners, the people of Sweden, and all citizens of Earth, present and future.

    Vattenfall has an imperfect record. It was a major consumer of coal and has been involved in nuclear power plants. Its record in the past decade is more admirable. They looked at the state of the world and recognized that survival dictates a need for truly green energy.

    At this point, most Canadian politicians prefer greenwashing.


  4. The countries mentioned, which are involved in the company, except for Great Britian, are pretty much about taking care of their country, its land, water, and people, because there isn’t that much room. Their newer methods of producing electricity is more cost effective. They understand, you can pay now or your can pay later and paying now is usually much less expensive.

    One advantage of the wind farms is they can be established in various places so no one location going down will crash the whole grid. The Lower Mainland relies on electricty from the dams in northern B.C. If we ever have a big earthquake, we will have a problem just getting the lines back up. If we had a source of electricity closer to the lower mainland, we’d be in a much better position. With the climate changing and larger forest fires, its quite possible one of these days those transmission lines are going to burn in a forest fire.

    Putting up wind turbines is a lot less expensive than building a Site C style dam and has less negative impact on people and the enviornment.

    The dams were great when they were built, but science has come along way since then. There are better methods of creating electricity.

    Perhaps the engineers from the European firm could have a chat with those at B.C. Hydro


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