Renewable Energy

After hydropower, bioenergy is BC’s most developed renewable electricity resource, accounting for over 700 MW of existing capacity[i]. BC is currently Canada’s leader in bioenergy capacity due to its large abundance of wood based biomass. Waste from sawmills accounts for more than 70% of bioenergy inputs, but electricity is also generated from logging debris (including wood damaged by the invasive Pine Beetle) [ii]. BC’s biogas industry is much smaller, with slightly under 120 MW in operation.

With its powerful wind resources and the ability to use its large hydro reservoirs to inexpensively and effectively integrate thousands of megawatts into the grid, BC is very well suited to large-scale wind development, [iv]. While it ranks 4th in terms of installed wind capacity, BC lags considerably behind the three frontrunners, Ontario, Québec and Alberta, with 489 MW in operation and another 130 MW in development. It was also the last province to see the completion of a utility-scale wind project in Canada [iii].

In terms of solar power, although BC has made headway in solar thermal systems, it has yet to make significant gains in solar PV, with only around 1 MW currently in development[v].

Policy Mechanisms

BC Hydro acquires non-hydro renewable power from IPPs through various competitive call processes, standard or open offers and bilateral arrangements. As of May 1, 2015, BC Hydro has 101 Electricity Purchase Agreements (EPAs) with IPPs totaling 4,567 MW of operational capacity and 793 MW under development [vi].

The acquisition processes currently underway include:

  • A Standing Offer Program for projects 15 MW or less, which takes a first come, first served approach to awarding applications. Currently, BC Hydro’s target volume is 150 GWh/year, meaning that the target would be satisfied by about 3 or 4 15 MW projects reaching commercial operation each year. As of June 24, there remains no available volume for 2015 and 2016, 6 GWh remaining for 2017, and 110 GWh available for 2018.
  • A Net Metering Tariff for clean or renewable[1] electricity generation up to 100 kW in capacity. Available to residential and commercial customers, the program enables them to receive credit at the year’s end for any excess power generated, which is applied to their future electricity use. BC Hydro pays all generators, regardless of technology, a rate of 9.99 cents per kWh. 

According to the Pembina Institute, these programs have helped to initiate the deployment of renewable technologies, and have created over 14,100 jobs throughout the province. BC’s other forward-looking climate policies such as the carbon tax and the clean energy requirement for new electricity produced also help to make the business case for investments in renewables. However, they are not deemed far-reaching enough to achieve a substantial shift, not only in types of generation technologies, but in the configuration and governance of the energy system as a whole. The BC Sustainable Energy Association, the Pembina Institute and CanWEA all call for the adoption of supportive policies like Feed-In Tariffs, which provide stability and transparency, and larger overall renewable energy targets.

 

[1] According to the Clean Energy Act, this includes: biogas, biomass, geothermal heat, hydro, solar, ocean, wind, fuel cells and energy recovery technologies.

[i] Hoekstra, G. 2014. “Power plants fueled by sawmill, logging waste to produce electricity this year”, Vancouver Sun Retrieved 14 Oct 2015 http://www.vancouversun.com/technology/Power+plants+fuelled+sawmill+logging+waste+produce+electricity+this+year/9886043/story.html?__lsa=f108-f4ab

[ii] Hoekstra, G. 2014. “Power plants fueled by sawmill, logging waste to produce electricity this year”, Vancouver Sun Retrieved 14 Oct 2015 http://www.vancouversun.com/technology/Power+plants+fuelled+sawmill+logging+waste+produce+electricity+this+year/9886043/story.html?__lsa=f108-f4ab

[iii] Canadian Wind Energy Association. Wind Vision 2025: A Strategy for British Columbia. Retrieved 13 Aug 2015 from http://canwea.ca/pdf/canwea-bc-windvision-web-e.pdf

[iv] Canadian Wind Energy Association. Wind Vision 2025: A Strategy for British Columbia. Retrieved 13 Aug 2015 from http://canwea.ca/pdf/canwea-bc-windvision-web-e.pdf

[v] BC Hydro. 2015c. Independent Power Producers Currently Supplying BC Hydro. Retrieved 17 Aug 2015 from https://www.bchydro.com/energy-in-bc/acquiring_power/meeting_energy_needs/how_power_is_acquired.html

[vi] BC Hydro. 2015c. Independent Power Producers Currently Supplying BC Hydro. Retrieved 17 Aug 2015 from https://www.bchydro.com/energy-in-bc/acquiring_power/meeting_energy_needs/how_power_is_acquired.html

 

Image attribution: “Revelstoke Unit 5” by BC Gov Photos is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

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