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Clean, affordable electricity will power growth on Vancouver Island

July 5, 2024 at 9:56 am  BC, News, Politics, Provincial

BC Hydro will build more than $3 billion in capital projects on Vancouver Island over the next decade to upgrade and expand the electricity grid and provide clean power for homes and businesses in growing communities.

“We must build out B.C.’s electrical system like never before, to power our homes and businesses, to power a growing economy and to power our future,” said Josie Osborne, Minister of Energy, Mines and Low Carbon Innovation. “On Vancouver Island and in communities across B.C., these construction projects will create thousands of good jobs over the next decade and ensure that people have access to clean, affordable and reliable electricity, when they need it and where they need it.” 

In January 2024, the Province announced BC Hydro’s updated 10-Year Capital Plan, which contains $36 billion in regional and community infrastructure investments throughout B.C., a 50% increase in investments over its previous capital plan. These construction projects are forecasted to support 10,500 to 12,500 jobs annually, on average, and will increase and maintain BC Hydro’s capital investments as major projects such as Site C are completed.

The plan reflects growing demand for electricity across sectors due to population growth and housing construction, increased industrial development, and people and businesses switching from fossil fuels to clean electricity, among other factors.

“In growing regions like Vancouver Island where we are seeing substantial housing, building, transportation and industrial growth, we are embarking on significant upgrades to our electricity system, including investments in our generation plants, new and expanded substation projects as well as major distribution investments to support underground and overhead infrastructure extensions to ensure we can continue to provide reliable and clean electricity to our customers,” said Chris O’Riley, president and CEO, BC Hydro. “We are also making important changes to our customer-connections process to speed up timelines for newly constructed homes and buildings.”

Vancouver Island is experiencing significant growth in Victoria, Saanich, Langford, Colwood and Nanaimo. To meet growth in these areas, BC Hydro is investing in several projects as part of its 10-Year Capital Plan, including:

  • building a new substation in the Langford area that will power an additional 40,000 to 70,000 homes and be in service by 2030;
  • replacing end-of-life transmission underground cables that service Victoria, Esquimalt and Saanich, increasing capacity more than 60%, enough to power more than 100,000 additional homes;
  • major distribution investments to increase power-line capacity to support new residential housing and anticipated residential load growth in:
    • Bear Mountain and Langford Heights;
    • Victoria, Oak Bay and Esquimalt;
    • District of Saanich and central Saanich; and
    • North and South Nanaimo.
  • upgrades of transmission capacity to Vancouver Island by replacing old undersea cables with new cables by the Gulf Islands; and
  • seismic upgrade projects to BC Hydro’s three dams within the Campbell River system – John Hart, Strathcona and Ladore – to maintain downstream public safety and to ensure a continuing reliable local supply of energy, with all three projects planned to be in service by 2030.

BC Hydro is also investigating the feasibility of grid-scale batteries on Vancouver Island to provide additional capacity to address anticipated growth and improve reliability in the region.

In north Vancouver Island, work is being undertaken to voltage convert and upgrade the existing system supplying Port Alice, which will provide BC Hydro with more options to restore outages, as well as allow more and larger customers to connect to the system. BC Hydro is also making investments to replace its substation in Woss.

BC Hydro’s 10-Year Capital Plan is a key part of Powering Our Future: BC’s Clean Energy Strategy. The strategy focuses on building an economy powered by clean energy, creating new jobs and opportunities, and keeping electricity affordable.

BC Hydro also recently launched a call for power to acquire approximately 3,000 gigawatt hours per year (GWh/y) of clean electricity. This is BC Hydro’s first competitive call for power in more than 15 years and will add 5% to its current supply, and will be the first in a series of calls for power as BC Hydro requires more power to electrify B.C.’s growing economy and reduce pollution.

Quotes:

Rob Fleming, MLA for Victoria-Swan Lake –

“This BC Hydro investment marks a transformative moment for Victoria. With our community thriving and growing, these upgrades ensure reliable, clean electricity for all. They not only bolster our economic prospects but also strengthen our commitment to a sustainable future. I am extremely excited to see these upgrades unfold for Victoria.”

Marianne Alto, mayor of Victoria –

“The energy used to heat, power and cool homes and other buildings makes up over half of Victoria’s greenhouse-gas emissions. As part of the city’s commitment to climate action, Victoria was one of the first local governments to adopt the highest level of BC’s Zero Carbon Step Code to limit-greenhouse gas emissions in new buildings. Victorians continue to take advantage of incentives and retrofit programs to make climate-friendly upgrades to older homes. BC Hydro’s investments in Victoria support increased demand for clean electricity in our community and help us meet our reduced emissions targets.”

Dean Murdock, mayor of Saanich –

“This significant investment by BC Hydro will support the sustainable growth of communities on southern Vancouver Island. Our fast-expanding region has ambitious housing, economic development and climate targets that this commitment to clean and dependable electricity will directly support. Generations of residents and businesses in Saanich will experience the benefits of this upgraded and expanded infrastructure.”

Darlene Rotchford, councillor and acting mayor, Township of Esquimalt –

“With just over 1,000 units currently under construction, these upgrades and expansions are a welcome addition to our existing electrical capacity. These projects support not only our residents but also our businesses, our economic development and our climate goals.”

Ravi Parmar, MLA for Langford-Juan De Fuca –

“Langford is one of the fastest-growing communities in B.C., and these projects ensure that both new residents and lifelong locals have access to reliable and clean electricity. The new Langford area substation will power an additional 40,000 to 70,000 homes, ensuring the Westshore region gets the energy it needs to support its growth.” 

Bruce Williams, CEO, Victoria Chamber of Commerce –

“Greater Victoria’s business community is at the forefront of climate action leadership and we strongly support work being done to reduce emissions. The projects being undertaken on Vancouver Island add resiliency to our power grid and will ensure our region has sustainable access to clean energy.”

Quick Facts:

  • Currently, 98% of the power generated for B.C.’s integrated grid comes from clean or renewable resources, making B.C. a leader in North America when it comes to clean energy.
  • Electricity demand in B.C. is expected to increase by 15% or more between now and 2030.
  • BC Hydro has kept rate increases below the rate of inflation for six years in a row. B.C. currently has the second-lowest residential electricity rates in North America, and the third lowest commercial and industrial rates.
  • BC Hydro was a net exporter of electricity for the past five years (2019-23), with most imports coming from dedicated clean sources of electricity.

Learn More:

To view BC Hydro’s 10-year capital plan, Power Pathway: Building BC’s energy future, visit:   https://news.gov.bc.ca/files/CS-4307-CapitalPlan_LTR.pdf

To view a graph of BC Hydro’s planned capital spending, visit: https://news.gov.bc.ca/files/CS-4307-CapitalExpenditures_Chart.pdf

For details on Powering Our Future: BC’s Clean Energy Strategy, visit: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content?id=E28B86DD48CC469684A9401B54087682

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