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BC Hydro launches call for private wind, solar power producers to feed grid

WATCH: To help meet the province's fast-growing need for power, BC Hydro is asking the private sector to develop more solar and wind electric generation projects. Richard Zussman reports – Apr 3, 2024

For the first time in 15 years, BC Hydro is calling on the private sector to bid on projects to meet the province’s growing need for electricity.

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The Crown corporation said Wednesday that it needs another 3,000 gigawatt hours of electricity annually, enough to power the equivalent of 270,000 homes or a million electric vehicles.

“Demand is forecast to increase by 15 per cent between now and 2030,” Energy, Mines and Low Carbon Innovation Minister Josie Osborne said.

“Our job in government and BC Hydro’s job is to plan for the future and ensure that we can continue to supply clean, reliable and affordable electricity that people and businesses need.”

The utility is calling for the construction of large-scale wind and solar projects, producing between 40 and 200 megawatts, that could be online as early as 2028.

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BC Hydro president and CEO Chris O’Reilly said the competitive process will take a bid’s location and what time of year they produce power into account.

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“The call for power launching today is one of the most important initiatives we currently have underway,” he said.

“It’s a key step to increasing electrification and supporting a growing economy and population across British Columbia, and it will help us ensure that we continue to provide clean, affordable power for generations to come.”

Successful bids will also need to have a minimum of 25 per cent First Nations ownership, with the aim of supporting “meaningful economic reconciliation.”

First Nations will have access to loans through the Canada Infrastructure Bank to help them buy into the projects, he said.

The current call for bids will be the first in a series, launching every two years.

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“Each successive call will be tailored to the system’s needs at the time of the call’s design, depending on our projected needs at that point in time,” O’Reilly said.

The move comes as BC Hydro seeks to diversify its energy mix.

About 87 per cent of electricity in B.C. is currently generated by hydroelectricity, but a multi-year drought has raised concerns about future generating capacity in dry conditions. Last year, the utility was forced to import power due to low reservoir levels.

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“We know B.C. will continue to see more extreme weather conditions in the years to come and that is why it is important we diversify how we produce electricity by bringing more wind and solar onto the grid, the costs of which have declined dramatically over the past years,” Osborne said.

“This will make our energy system more resilient in the years to come.”

The province estimates the new power projects will generate between $2.3 billion and $3.6 billion in private capital spending and create between 800 and 1,500 jobs annually.

The call for new power sources is in addition to BC Hydro’s own 10-year capital plan, which earmarks $36 billion to expand transmission lines to mines in B.C.’s northwest, build new substations and lines to housing developments and upgrade infrastructure provincewide.


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