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Canada has one-quarter of the world's fresh water supply, one-third of which is located in British Columbia. This has led to the development of an extensive hydroelectric generation system. The availability of competitively priced electrical energy continues to be a strong incentive for new energy-intensive industries to locate in B.C.

BC Hydro is a commercial Crown corporation owned by the Province of British Columbia and reporting to the B.C. Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources. The third largest electric utility in Canada, BC Hydro provides reliable, low cost electricity to 1.8 million customers and serves 94 per cent of the population of British Columbia.

BC Hydro endeavours to provide energy solutions to its customers in an environmentally and socially responsible way by balancing British Columbians' energy needs with the concerns of the environment. Through the efficient and reliable supply of electricity, BC Hydro supports the development of British Columbia and has constructed a world-class integrated hydroelectric system. Due to this efficient, reliable system, British Columbians enjoy some of the lowest electricity rates in North America.

BC Hydro operates 30 hydroelectric facilities and three natural gas-fueled thermal power plants. About 80% of the province's electricity is produced by major hydroelectric generating stations on the Columbia and Peace rivers. BC Hydro generates between 43,000 and 54,000 gigawatt hours (GWh) of electricity annually, depending on prevailing water levels. Electricity is delivered to customers through a network of over 18,000 kilometres of transmission lines and 57,000 kilometres of distribution lines.

Electric Power Generation
Generation - Gigawatts
2009
 Hydro
55,872
 Other
6,334
Total Generation
62,206
  
Receipts from:
 Other provinces
299
 United States
11,286
Total Receipts
11,585
  
Deliveries to:
 Other provinces
1,281
 United States
6,668
Total Deliveries
7,950
  
Total Electricity Available
65,841
Source: Statistics Canada

The average household in BC Hydro’s service area uses about 11,000 kWh per year. A large industrial customer, such as a pulp mill, might use 400 GWh in a year, equal to the consumption of 40,000 households. A typical large office building of 20–25 storeys might consume 5 GWh in a year, equal to the consumption of 500 households. A large “big box” retail outlet might consume 3.5 GWh per year, or roughly the equivalent of 350 households.

Canadians expect that their increasing electricity needs will be met in an environmentally-friendly fashion. One of the key components in a prosperous economy is low-cost, reliable electricity that does not unduly burden the environment.

Governments are implementing a growing number of environmental demands on the sector, through legislative regimes and international commitments. In response to these trends, the industry’s environmental performance continues to improve: electricity intensity is declining, air emissions from fossil generation (coal, oil and gas) are declining; waste and hazardous materials are being reduced, or more effectively managed; and species and habitat management is a bigger and bigger part of decision-making on new and existing projects.

Measuring and documenting this performance is often a challenge. To meet it, the Canadian Electricity Association (CEA), representing a majority of the country’s generation, transmission and distribution assets, has undertaken a number of initiatives. CEA’s Environmental Commitment and Responsibility Program, its work on climate change, mercury, and fisheries issues, and most recently its pilot studies on measuring environmental performance1, are all examples.

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