BC needs a lot more power for electric-battery car revolution: report

Oct 31 2019, 5:28 pm

Researchers at the University of Victoria (UVIC) are warning that BC will need to more than double its electricity production capacity over the coming decades from the transition to using electric-battery powered vehicles instead of fossil fuel-powered vehicles.

The adoption of electric-battery vehicles, as existing fossil fuel-powered vehicles age, is expected to grow exponentially ahead of 2040, when provincial regulations stipulate all new light-duty cars and trucks sold in BC must be clean energy models.

According to the university’s Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions, BC will need to increase its electricity generation from a capacity of 15.6 gigawatts in 2015 to 37 gigawatts by 2055 to meet the expected economic and population growth, including the switch to all-electric road transportation.

The power generated by the under-construction Site C hydroelectricity dam in northeast BC will be a drop in the bucket of what is needed, as it will produce just 1.1 gigawatts. The dam, costing about $10 billion, is expected to go online in 2024.

Researchers suggest solar power and wind power are “very promising” alternatives for BC due to their “falling costs” of production. They estimate the average unit cost of electricity will increase by just 9% due to the availability of low-cost, renewable energy options. Costs could only rise by 5% if at least half of drivers charged their vehicles at off-peak times, which spreads the demand and results in a lower maximum capacity output.

“Our modelling shows that electrification of transport systems, and a significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, can be achieved at relatively low additional cost to the electricity system,” said Curran Crawford, UVIC professor and study co-author, in a statement.

The electrification of the entire road fleet is forecast to reduce total emissions from combined transportation and electricity sectors by 38% between 2015 and 2055.

BC has one of the highest rates of electric-battery vehicle adoption in the country. Currently, there are about 26,000 electric-battery vehicles in the province, and this figure is projected to rise to nearly 400,000 by 2030.

According to BC Hydro, the fuelling costs of an electric-battery vehicle are far lower than a gas-powered vehicle; for instance, charging a Nissan Leaf at home daily costs an estimated $20 per month, while a Honda Civic’s gas costs are about $170 per month on average.