BC Government Announces the First BC Hydro Power Call in 15 years
On June 15, 2023, the BC government announced that BC Hydro and Power Authority (“BC Hydro”) will be launching a new call for sources of renewable, emission-free electricity in the province of BC. This is BC Hydro’s first call for power in 15 years.
The call, expected to launch in the spring of 2024, will seek to acquire new sources of power as early as 2028. The program will focus on projects that offer 100% clean, renewable electricity, including wind and solar, and is expected to prioritize large utility-scale projects. The call will also include $140 million to the BC Indigenous Clean Energy Initiative to support Indigenous-led projects, some of which may not otherwise be competitive owing to their smaller size.
The new power call is expected to ease electricity supply constraints in the coming decade as the province electrifies carbon-intensive sectors and seeks to reduce BC’s net carbon emissions. BC Hydro’s announcement came in conjunction with its filing of a signpost update (the “Signpost Update”) with the BC Utilities Commission which, among other things, confirmed that new sources of electricity will be needed in the province sooner than previously expected. This is consistent with BC Hydro’s 2023 update (the “2023 Update”) to their 2021 Integrated Resource Plan (the “IRP”). In the Signpost Update and the 2023 Update, BC Hydro identified shortfalls in the IRP’s electricity supply modelling, resulting in the need to extend and accelerate near-term supply management actions, add roughly 700GWh of power from existing generation assets before 2029, and create 3000GWh of new power from greenfield assets as early as 2029. Key contributors to the shift in the utility’s load resource balance include: (i) an increase to its load forecast of approximately 2,300 GWh, primarily due to higher large industrial and commercial loads; (ii) the removal of approximately 800 GWh of energy savings associated with demand side management activities that are now embedded in historic billed electricity sales and no longer reflected as a resource for future years; and (iii) a reduction of approximately 900 GWh in forecast energy contributions from existing, committed and planned resources due primarily to reductions in expected energy generation from biomass generating facilities related to future fuel supply risks.
The call will be a competitive process designed by BC Hydro and the province following engagement with Indigenous groups, industry, and stakeholders. Consideration will be given to the development of minimum participation requirements for Indigenous groups. A newly formed BC Hydro task force will provide strategic advice on program design, focusing on Indigenous ownership opportunities, speed of permitting and delivery, electricity rates, climate priorities, and economic opportunity acceleration. The task force will consult Indigenous and other external energy experts.
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McCarthy Tétrault’s Power Group has been actively involved in all aspects of electricity project development in every province in Canada. In British Columbia, our Power Group has intimate knowledge of the power industry and has had extensive involvement on behalf of both developers and lenders in a variety of project contexts. Our experience encompasses all stages of the project life-cycle including: project partnering, including a broad range of joint venture structures, including with Indigenous groups; private and Crown land acquisitions; environmental and permitting matters; negotiations with BC Hydro and related utility regulatory matters; indigenous law matters; project financing; and acquisition and sale transactions. Our depth and experience in the B.C. power market are perhaps best evidenced by the fact that we have been engaged as counsel – whether to an original developer, an acquiror, a joint venture partner or a lender – in relation to over 20 of the 27 renewable energy projects awarded electricity purchase agreements by BC Hydro in its last large-scale power procurement process, the 2008 Clean Power Call.