Updated: Aug 24, 2021
The BC Hydro 20 year power strategy draft plan is out, but it's a plan for the past.
The draft plan lays out two vastly different scenarios. BC Hydro's stated choice, the default 'Base Resource Plan', assumes that climate inaction will triumph and we'll fail to meet our emission reduction targets. The contingency alternative 'Accelerated Scenario' plan envisions a future where BC Hydro becomes a climate leader, delivering the clean energy British Columbians want to power the sustainable future we all deserve.
I know which option I want to see implemented.
BC Climate Alliance members Sarah Katya Kirschmann and Laura Sacks have written an open letter to Premier Horgan and Cabinet protesting the plan's lack of direction and demanding a strategy in line with immediate, bold, and appropriate climate action.
Please consider adding your name and sending a copy to your local representatives.
Dear Premier Horgan and Cabinet,
As we experience yet another record wildfire year and choke on hazardous levels of smoke, one might expect your government to be doing everything possible to tackle the climate crisis. However, BC Hydro’s draft 20-year power strategy falls woefully short of what is needed. It is clear that BC Hydro一which is a crown corporation一will not be a climate leader without clear guidance from you.
Their draft integrated resource plan (IRP) characterized as “a 20th-century plan for the 21st century” fails to equip us with the tools needed to address the climate crisis. The plan does not align with the BC government’s own legislated greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction targets. Nor does it jibe with CleanBC’s climate goals to “grow the use of clean and renewable energy” over the next decade. BC Hydro, as the largest producer of clean energy in BC, could make or break our success in meeting these goals.
Compromises and inconsistent climate policy direction from leadership will lead to greater costs down the line in disaster mitigation efforts. We’ve already seen the huge costs of climate change to humans, ecosystems, and our economy this summer一 agriculture in crisis, deadly heat, hazardous smoke, thousands evacuated, and millions spent fighting fires. And it’s just early August.
The draft IRP lays out two vastly different scenarios for the future of our province. BC Hydro’s choice, the “Base Resource Plan”, is not compatible with meeting provincial GHG targets. However, its contingency “Accelerated Scenario” would provide the energy needed for the province to kick its fossil fuel addiction and make good on its claims of climate leadership.
The default plan fails to take into account the increased electricity demand to come from the exponential growth in electric vehicles (EVs) and the switch to electric heating. BC drivers are buying EVs in record numbers, and BC Hydro’s own recent survey indicates that two-thirds of British Columbians plan to buy an EV in the next several years.
The provincial and federal governments are encouraging homeowners to switch to electric heat pumps, which are more efficient than natural gas. They are also in great demand as they can also work as air conditioners and filter wildfire smoke. Climate models show unequivocally that summers will continue to get hotter and smokier in coming decades; we need only look to this summer’s rush on air conditioners during the heatwave that killed over 500 people to predict an increased electrical demand.
The Accelerated Scenario would give us a fighting chance of meeting BC’s climate targets. However, this plan still falls short when it comes to preparing for climate resiliency. A comprehensive plan to electrify our communities must include increased redundancy to help withstand the disruptions that are already rising as a result of more frequent extreme weather events. A move towards local, renewable energy systems would mitigate the risk of wildfires cutting off power to an entire community, as when Cache Creek’s only transmission line was threatened earlier this summer, or when a fire that cut through a transmission line to West Kelowna threatened more than 60,000 Hydro customers.
This resiliency will become even more important as we increasingly rely on electricity for electric transportation and heating. Small-scale batteries for storing excess energy on a local scale have made leaps and bounds in recent years, making them an increasingly attractive and feasible option
The coming two decades will not look like the last two. The climate crisis must be put at the forefront of all policy if we are to rise to the greatest challenge of our time. This urgency was reiterated with stark clarity in the just-released IPCC report. We ask you to require that BC Hydro’s revised plan assumes we meet our legislated targets, aligns with CleanBC goals, and considers climate resiliency for our communities.
Sarah Katya Kirschmann and Laura Sacks