Drought Hits Canada’s Hydropower Sector

By Tsvetana Paraskova of Oilprice.com

Canada’s western provinces have been hit by the worst drought in years and provincial utilities are getting into losses as their hydropower generating capacities are lower amid low reservoir levels.

In British Columbia, drought in the past year has forced BC Hydro to draw water for hydropower generation from the least affected areas and to import electricity, executives have told Bloomberg.

British Columbia’s utility corporation has been importing more electricity from neighboring Alberta and from some western U.S. states. No blackouts are expected but electricity imports have increased in recent months.

“These are steps we will continue to take in the coming months,” BC Hydro spokesman Kyle Donaldson told Bloomberg, describing the drought conditions as “historic”.

Last year, BC Hydro said in October that it “prepares year-round and has stepped up its vegetation management program in recent years given the drought and weather-related challenges.”

“Although BC Hydro’s smaller plants on the South Coast have recovered, its larger facilities in the north and southeast of the province are still at lower-than-normal reservoir water levels for this time of year,” the company said at the time.

“BC Hydro is taking steps to actively manage the drought, including conserving water by drawing on less impacted regions and importing more power – a common activity during low water years.”

During the record peak hourly electricity demand in the cold snap in the middle of January 2024, BC Hydro said that “Though the historic drought has impacted some of BC Hydro’s largest reservoirs – the source of water for the clean power it generates – in the north and southeast of the province, its team has been planning in real-time for over a year to manage these conditions.”

According to data from the federal government, Canada is the second-largest producer of hydroelectricity in the world. Hydropower generation has typically accounted for around 60% of the country’s electricity supply, with British Columbia and Manitoba the key hydropower-generating provinces.  

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