Wednesday, January 17, 2024

Will BC Hydro's 10 year plan, finally make for the flip of a switch for Prince Rupert's Woodworth Dam?

The provincial plan towards development of clean, affordable energy was a key element for Premier David Eby on Tuesday, with the Premier using the BC Natural Resources Forum in Prince George as the venue to explore themes of hydro development  in Northern BC and across the province.

“We must expand our electrical system like never before, to power industrial development, to power our homes and businesses, to power our future,. Clean, affordable energy will help us meet that opportunity, while reducing pollution, securing good-paying jobs and creating new opportunities for our growing economy.” -- Premier David Eby on Tuesday in Prince George

Much of the. focus for Premier  Eby was to share some background on the 10 year capital plan recently put forward by BC Hydro to achieve those provincial goals.

Among those taking note of the Province's ambitious hopes for hydro generation was Shaun Stevenson, the President and CEO of the Prince Rupert Port Authority, he observed on the plans for the Port's diversification plans and how energy investment will work to that program. 

Earlier this month, BC Hydro officials outlined their blueprint for development for the next ten years, the Power Pathway document one which highlights the three pillars of their 10 year Capital Plan.

Of the 21 billion dollars to be spent on sustainment themes, 4.7 Billion has been allocated towards the North, some of it to move forward on a partnership with First Nations on the North Coast Transmission Line project, a project that BC Hydro notes will unleash the shared economic potential for development of the region.

"The North Coast of B.C. is experiencing growth from sectors such as ports, mining, hydrogen and liquified natural gas. In response to BC Hydro’s 2023 Expression of Interest, the mining sector accounted for the largest number of individual submissions and the hydrogen sector accounted for the largest amount of proposed future demand. 

The diversity of industries, as well as the magnitude of the potential demand, are clear signals that new transmission infrastructure between Prince George and Terrace is needed. 

Providing access to clean, renewable electricity will encourage economic development while reducing and avoiding greenhouse gas emissions, which supports the CleanBC climate targets, the StrongerBC economic plan, as well as B.C. and Canada’s critical minerals strategies." 

Other initiatives that BC Hydro notes they plan to move ahead wth in the years to come include an Integrated resource plan, Electrification plan and a Call for Power from First Nation partnerships and Independent Power producers.

That last window of entry into the BC Hydro planning might be of some interest to Prince Rupert civic officials, who have the capacity to generate hydro electricity through the recently completed Woodworth Dam, but at the moment, nowhere to deliver that energy were it to actually come on line.

On their call for power program introduction last year, BC Hydro hosted an Information session for Local Governments last summer, a topic we explored in June of 2023.

There has however,  been no indication from the City of Prince Rupert if they participated, if they have followed up on the proposed program and if there may be any opportunities available to flip the switch at Woodworth Lake to produce energy and deliver some revenue for the civic treasury.

We also have not heard if there remain challenges, whether physical, legislative or political that won't allow the City to move forward towards gaining access to the BC Hydro distribution system.

The addition of the hydro generating capacity wasn't much of a public discussion topic in the planning stages for the Dam and since completion and entering service in February of 2023, we've heard little more about the first of the significant infrastructure projects that the city has taken one, most related to the city's water infrastructure issues.

Council may want to consider an update for the community to share any notes on the current BC Hydro Call for power and if the piece of civic infrastructure may be a part of the energy program for British Columbia.

If not, they might want to outline what the future may be for that hydro generating capacity that continues to sit idle.

The history of the Woodworth Dam project, started in 2014 with planning the construction was deemed complete in October of 2022 how it evolved in between those datescan be traced through our Major Projects Archive.

More notes on BC Hydro can be reviewed here.

Items of interest from the Legislature can be explored here.


  1. The power from dam must be costed first to see if it is economically viable. We borrowed 10 million dollars to possibly generate power in the future. At this time, we can't afford to fix anything that requires fixing. We have no money to finance a capital project with no return for 20 years.

    If it is worthwhile, we could lease to a company that is willing to complete the project. And pay royalties.

    1. That's an important point, it shouldn't be like CityWest which the city has been financing without a return, just occasional repayments of interest-free debt and no dividends, which really means that the city has been going backwards on the investment.