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Eby announces $36 billion for BC Hydro infrastructure over next 10 years

Premier David Eby announced the spending Tuesday in Prince George
Premier David Eby, here seen speaking in Victoria in Novemeber, announced Tuesday (Jan. 16) that BC Hydro would spend $36 billion over the next decade to generate more power in B.C. (Screencap)

Premier David Eby says the the province will be supporting a major expansion of B.C.’s electricity infrastructure.

On Tuesday (Jan. 16), Eby announced that BC Hydro is planning to spend $36 billion on community and regional capital projects during the next decade, starting 2024-2025. This figure represents an increase of 50 per cent over BC Hydro’s last capital budget and includes “significant” funding in infrastructure for electrification and projects reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

“We must expand our electrical system like never before — to power industrial development, to power our homes and businesses, to power our future,” Eby said. “Clean, affordable energy will help us meet that opportunity while reducing pollution, securing good paying jobs and creating new opportunities for our growing economy.”

Eby made these comments while speaking in Prince George, which is hosting the Natural Resources Forum, a multi-day gathering of representatives from different resource industries, politicians, First Nations leaders and others.

RELATED: B.C. resource industries ‘modernizing,’ ‘changing,’ says industry leader

The additional spending coincides with the immediate conclusion of the construction of Site C in northeastern B.C. It also responds to the rising demand for electricity thanks to a growing population and the transition toward zero-emission but energy-intensive technologies in transportation, housing and industrial production.

BC Hydro now plans to acquire new sources of clean, renewable electricity, including wind and solar. They would be integrated into the existing system of hydro-electrical dams, which would act as water-storing ‘batteries.’ This system would BC Hydro to ramp production up or down almost instantly, providing a reliable back up for when the sun is not shining or the wind is not blowing.

Chris O’Riley, president and chief executive officer of BC Hydro, said the provincial electricity grid is “already one of the cleanest in the world” in alluding to the near-monopoly of hydro-electricity as B.C.’s main power source.

“We have already taken significant steps towards sourcing the clean electricity needed to meet the future demand and we are now embarking on the next step – our $36 billion 10-year (capital plan), which includes everything from investing in our generation assets and large transmission infrastructure to the substations and local wires that deliver power to homes and businesses across the province.”

RELATED: Electricity demand in B.C. expected to increase by 15% by 2030

Eby also announced that government and BC Hydro would implement a new streamlined, one-window approval process to get electricity faster to in-demand industries.

Figures released in June 2023 show provincial demand for electricity will increase by 15 per cent between now and 2030, citing population growth and consumers adopting new technologies like electric vehicles and heat pumps.

BC Hydro, the provincial Crown corporation supplying almost all British Columbians with electricity, paired that data with a historic call for power to third parties, the first of its kind in 15 years.

“We currently have about 25 per cent of our supply coming from independent power producers,” Riley said. “So this is extending that, really focusing on renewable power.”

BC Hydro said at the time it would only acquire electricity, which is 100 per cent clean and renewable, including wind and solar.

New power projects will also include a yet-to-be-determined minimum level of required participation by First Nations, the province said.

Wolf Depner

About the Author: Wolf Depner

I joined the national team with Black Press Media in 2023 from the Peninsula News Review, where I had reported on Vancouver Island's Saanich Peninsula since 2019.
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