Island Generation, a 275-megawatt natural gas-fired power plant in Campbell River. Photo courtesy Capital Power.

Island Generation, a 275-megawatt natural gas-fired power plant in Campbell River. Photo courtesy Capital Power.

We believe the decision by BC Hydro to not re-contract Island Generation is wrong: letter

For the past 20 years, the Island Generation facility in Campbell River has been a vital source of reliable power for Vancouver Island and BC’s Lower Mainland. That reliability is now at risk.

A recent draft proposal from BC Hydro puts the facility’s future in doubt and, if left unchanged, would likely result in Island Generation’s closure and decommissioning starting mid-2022.

Why does this matter and why should you care? Because Vancouver Island’s power grid relies heavily on transmission from the mainland – transmission that is not always available. Transmission capacity can be severely limited for a number of reasons including when the region suffers extended heat waves or cold snaps, or when transmission to the Island undergoes planned or unplanned maintenance. It’s during those times when Island Generation has always stepped up to the plate.

Island Generation is the largest power generation facility on Vancouver Island and represents about one third of total power capacity generation for the Island. The facility does not run all the time but is instead relied on when BC Hydro needs a source of electricity. When demand is up, or when unexpected events impact the availability of other parts of the BC Hydro system, the facility turns on and ensures power reaches homes across the Island.

This summer, we faced record high temperatures resulting in record demand on our electricity system and Island Generation played a major role to guarantee the system did not buckle from the heat and the demand. During these high temperatures there was also an unexpected outage of one of the transmission lines connecting Vancouver Island to the mainland. During that time, Island Generation was called upon to provide electricity and has been doing so since July 9th.

Despite this, BC Hydro’s draft planning documents for the future of the power grid do not see a need for Island Generation, and do not provide any detailed analysis showing what their immediate backup plan is if Island Generation is off the grid by this time next year.

We cannot afford to get this wrong. The events of this summer severely tested the resiliency of the BC system, and the availability of Island Generation was a key reason why the lights stayed on. When we are faced with another extreme weather event, we need to make sure power is there for those who need it in BC.

Island Generation is a big part of the answer to keeping lights on, fridges running, and the Internet working.

Beyond the critical need for Island Generation for reliable energy on the Island, the facility has another important role for Campbell River. It’s been a valuable resource to the community.

Annually, this facility provides roughly $1.5 million in property taxes to the City of Campbell River. That is more than four per cent of the annual property taxes collected by the city in 2020 and has helped fund core public services like water, utilities, municipal clean up, and public transportation.

At Capital Power, we are proud of the role we have taken to invest directly in the community as well. We have joined with non-profits, community groups, and health services year over year because we believe in this region and this city. Island Generation is also home to 15 full-time employees who play a vital role in making sure power gets to homes needed. That’s all at risk unless current plans for the facility change.

We believe the decision by BC Hydro to not re-contract Island Generation is the wrong one for the city, for Vancouver Island and for the entire province. However, there is still time to change minds at BC Hydro and the provincial government.

This is why we’ve started a campaign at www.KeepIslandGeneration.ca so the community and all of Vancouver Island can take action to support this vital facility and resource for all British Columbians. If you want a local and reliable power system, now is the time to make BC Hydro and the BC government aware of your concerns. Together, we can make a difference.

Kate Chisholm

Senior Vice President, Planning, Stakeholder Relations and Chief Sustainability Officer

BCHydroCampbell River