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Home News Record low reservoir levels being addressed by BC Hydro

Record low reservoir levels being addressed by BC Hydro

VANCOUVER, B.C. – BC Hydro shares they have been keeping rates low despite record low reservoir levels and challenges related to the Enbridge gas pipeline explosion.

A new report shared by BC Hydro called “Generational challenge: How B.C.’s generation system is adapting to extreme weather and unforeseen events” shows how extreme weather in B.C. over the past 12 months can impact BC Hydro’s reservoir levels.

According to BC Hydro, they are experienced in managing reservoir levels in low water years. Yet this past October brought an unexpected challenge with the Enbridge pipeline explosion due to its impact on wholesale market prices because of the increased demand for electricity to replace gas-generating units and provide a sufficient supply of electricity to meet the needs of British Columbians over the winter.

Following a dry summer, BC Hydro’s reservoirs were below normal, and by October, its two biggest reservoirs – Williston on the Peace River and Kinbasket on the Columbia River – reached record seasonal lows. In fact, dry conditions in the Williston basin resulted in four consecutive months of low inflows, with September, October and November being the third, second and fourth lowest in 60 years.

After the Enbridge pipeline explosion, this caused a high-level of gas supply uncertainty in B.C. and the Pacific Northwest with only 80 percent of normal capacity expected throughout the winter, impacting wholesale market prices for both natural gas and electricity. BC Hydro says they took steps to secure a sufficient supply of imports to meet evolving system needs over the winter season.

B.C. experienced a record-breaking cold February followed by the driest March on record in parts of B.C. BC Hydro shares, this resulted in more electricity being used than forecasted, and less water remaining in BC Hydro’s reservoirs as demand for power remained high. Independent power producers were down below projections due to the weather and unable to meet the increased demand.

According to BC Hydro, the steps taken by BC Hydro’s planners secured the power required to meet the demand without impacting rates.

Spring freshet was delayed due to cold and dry weather, yet inflows into the reservoirs have started to increase in April with warmer weather and will soon start filling the reservoirs.

BC Hydro is predicting higher water flows resulting from climate change over the long term, unpredictable weather patterns are expected to continue in the years ahead. BC Hydro is working to ensure its system performs safely across a wide range of conditions and extreme events by:

  • Continuously working to improve the weather and inflow forecasting. For example, all coastal watersheds can now be forecasted down to the hour, which improves the forecast accuracy for extreme rainfall events.
  • Expanding its hydroclimate monitoring technology. This includes custom-made solutions that have been designed in-house, as well as upgrading snow survey stations to automated, real-time snow and climate stations.
  • Investing in capital projects – like spillway gate replacements – that will increase the resiliency of the system to climate change.

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