BC Hydro is the largest producer and distributor of electricity in British Columbia, meeting the energy needs of 1.8 million customers. BC Hydro serves nearly the entire province, with the exception of Kootenay, where FortisBC provides electricity service to 213,000 customers, and the City of New Westminster, which operates its own municipal utility.
The utility owns and operates 32 hydroelectric generation facilities, and three natural gas thermal power plants, producing up to 54,000 gigawatt-hours of electricity per year. The province’s electricity is delivered via more than 18,000 kilometres of transmission lines, and another 55,000 kilometres of distribution lines.
BC Hydro does not set its own electricity rates. It is regulated by the British Columbia Utilities Commission, which sets BC Hydro’s rates, and has a mandate to generate, purchase, distribute, and sell electricity.
The History of BC Hydro
BC Hydro has its roots in the BC Electric Company, which was originally founded as the British Columbia Electric Railway in 1897. Operating in Vancouver, Victoria, and New Westminster, the private enterprise generated power for its railway and public lighting operations with coal-fired steam plants. This later gave way to hydro plants at Buntzen Lake and Stave Lake. BC Electric grew to become the largest private electric company in British Columbia.
In 1945, the BC Power Commission was established by the Electric Power Act, with the mandate of extending the reach of electrical infrastructure to communities beyond the reach of commercial companies. The Commission was intended to fulfill this mandate by purchasing and combining smaller private companies and their facilities across the province. Ultimately, by the 1950s, this had resulted in two electricity providers providing for British Columbia’s electricity needs—the publicly owned and operated BC Power, and the private BC Electric Company.
With the death of BC Electric Company’s president Dal Grauser in 1961, the province of British Columbia passed legislation which converted BC Electric from a private firm to a crown corporation. The company was then renamed BC Hydro. The operations of the BC Power Commission were folded into those of BC Hydro, with the newly amalgamated utility operating under the new name.