COLUMN: Future of renewable energy in the BC hydro grid

Columnist Jim Hilton discusses incentives for renewable energy projects

Jim Hilton

Special to the Tribune Advisor

With the NDP decision to continue with the Site C dam project it is imperative that we continue to provide real incentives for renewable energy projects (independent power producers, IPPs).

While researching information about how forest biomass is contributing toward the supply of electrical energy to the BC Hydro grid I came across a very informative paper. Published in 2010 by two authors from the University of Victoria, Amy Sopinka and G. Cornelis van Kooten, the paper is entitled “Is BC a Net Power Importer or Exporter ?” The 24-page report is not an easy read but is very helpful in explaining the complexities of developing an energy grid that provides power at a reasonable price on a consistent basis.

Sometimes it is easier to understand a complex problem if you start with a less complicated one. For example, an article in the Mother Earth News described a small scale system of off-the-grid power using a combination of solar panels with batteries, a wind turbine and gas generator.

The take away from this is that if solar is the main power source, wind and gas systems are needed for times when the sun does not provide the necessary power.

Efficient and reliable energy production and usage does not come from one source only. While the same principles apply to complicated systems like the massive BC hydro grid the obvious difference is the main power source being water storage behind dams.

What I took away from the article from the University of Victoria was that water stored in the multiple dams around the province was like the batteries in the smaller system. When possible it is kept in reserve until it can be used to derive the best price relative to other power sources.

The out of province power sources are Alberta which is a net user of our power and the U.S. which is a net exporter of power to B.C.

The Albertans import our power on a diurnal basis i.e. we export our expensive power during their peak demand from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. and import their cheaper excess night time power. It is easier for them to import power rather than ramp the coal fired plants up and down to meet changing demands.

The authors point out that the B.C. exports and imports to the U.S. markets are relatively small compared to the overall size of the market and are more seasonal in nature compared to the diurnal movement to Alberta. Graphs show how B.C. requires more electricity for heating and lighting in the winter while southern states need more electricity in the summer mostly for air conditioning. Power moves back and forth depending on the relative advantage for either provider.

The paper also reviews the pros and cons of a variety of alternate energy sources like run-of-river hydro, tidal power, solar photovoltaic (PV), wind and biomass. While the biomass plants like our local power plant have the advantage of more consistent power supply compared to solar or wind there can be a problem with competition for fibre from other users like pulp mills, OSB and pellet producers. In my opinion for the next nine years until the Site C starts to produce power (and beyond) we should be actively promoting the increase of alternate sources of power like solar, wind and biomass so that the we have a more flexible, diversified system.

In addition to the far north power systems as the main supplier of electricity we need to develop systems that, although more intermittent, would be more localized and provide longer term jobs and stability.

Jim Hilton is a professional agrologist and forester who has lived and worked in the Cariboo Chilcotin for the past 40 years. Now retired, Hilton still volunteers his skills with local community forests organizations.

Just Posted

Shock Collar Records brings new music to the lakecity

Local musician Evan Catalano is helping bring new music to the Williams Lake performance art scene

Three candidates vying for CRD Area F by-election

Maureen LeBourdais, Brice O’Neill and Shannon Rerie have put their names forward

Canada goose protected by horse from eagle attack, rescued and reunited with nest mate

One was protected from an eagle attack by a horse, the other one wandered onto a porch

RCMP trying to locate two men on outstanding warrants

Justin Tyler Pichoch and Gerald Isnardy are believed to be living in the Williams Lake area

National Energy Board approves Trans Mountain pipeline again

Next step includes cabinet voting on the controversial expansion

Girl heard saying ‘Help my Dad’ in suspicious radio message on Vancouver Island

Police asking for help following mysterious signals from somewhere between Comox and Sayward

Reports of rashes prompt closure of all Harrison Hot Springs pools

Public pool available after Fraser Health shut down all five mineral pools until further notice

No treatment for highly infectious measles, says doctor

10 cases of measles confirmed in Vancouver as of Friday

Two more measles cases confirmed in Vancouver

It brings the number of total cases within the city connected to the outbreak to ten

B.C. Special Olympics officially underway in Vernon

Athlete’s Oath: “Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.”

Vancouver Aquarium wants your help to name a baby killer whale

The public helped name Springer’s first calf, Spirit, and is being asked to help with the second

Guards protest firing of fellow officers charged with assault at B.C. prison

Corrections officers demonstrated in Maple Ridge on Friday afternoon

Skier dies at Revelstoke Mountain Resort

Cause of death for young man has not been released

Most Read