Thursday, August 17, 2006

It's About (Electrical) Power

A few days ago, the BC Government approved a 300 megawatt wind power project for the Peace River region (Thanks to Kinch Blog and The Conscious Earth for breaking that news).

Meanwhile, in the other side of Northern BC, in the town of Kitimat, Alcan plans to replace the current aluminum smelter by building a new one that happens to use 140 Megawatts less of electricity than the old one (and the loss of over 1000 jobs). It's interesting to note that the town of Kitimat is fighting a legal battle with Alcan right now regarding an 1950's agreement with the province of BC which basically gave Alcan cheap power in exchange for jobs because Alcan find it more profitable to sell the electricity rather than use it to produce aluminum, therefore reducing the amount of workers needed.

Via Stolen Moments of Island Time, there are plans to create a new high voltage electric transmission cable between Vancouver Island and the Mainland.

How do these three separate bits of information connect? They all relate to the BC electrical system. Demand for electricity is growing, and BC is actually a net importer of electricity. However, most of the people I talk to still believe that BC is an exporter of electricity and tend to not to believe that BC is going to need more electrical generating plants in the future.

Therefore the need for more electricity is why all of a sudden we are seeing new electrical projects in BC such as transmission cables and wind plants. It is why the Government of BC is allowing Alcan to focus on power generation rather than aluminum smelting. It is why BC Hydro has a few energy-conservation programs. But is all of this going to be enough. I don't think so.

I believe that "Site C", a massive hydroelectric dam on the Peace River in Northern BC will come into play at some point. However, Site C happens to be very controversial and every time it is proposed, public outcry tends to cause any plans to be cancelled. Site C would have environmental effects, including flooding valuable agricultural land. However, it would also create cheap electricity, and lots of it.

So I hope that small, environmentally friendly electrical projects continue to be announced. However, we British Columbians may have to make a tough choice regarding Site C in the near future.

Update (8.10.2006, 1:43): It looks like Site C would produce 900 Megawatts, but it would still not be enough to stop importing electricity.

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