BC Hydro to dismantle decommissioned natural gas power plant in Port Moody

BC Hydro has announced plans to dismantle an aging and all but shuttered natural gas power plant on Port Moody’s north shore.

The 950-megawatt Burrard Generating Station is 62 years old and, until it was decommissioned in 2016, served as a backup power source for B.C.’s hydroelectric grid during low water years.

Since then it has been functioning much like a substation, converting high-voltage electricity from the hydro grid to a lower voltage for use in Metro Vancouver.

Click to play video: 'BC Hydro importing power as drought drags on in province’s northeast'

BC Hydro importing power as drought drags on in province’s northeast

What the site will be used for once the plant is dismantled hasn’t been decided yet, said BC Hydro spokesperson Kevin Aquino, with preliminary steps of what will likely be a multi-year process still underway.

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“We want to identify whether or not there are archaeological resources or if there’s like contamination and that will help us determine the future use of the site,” Aquino said.

While the future of the site remains unclear, there are already hopes it will be used for green power infrastructure.

“There’s a lot of possibilities, but I am really hoping we will have something there that would be related to clean energy development,” Port Moody-Coquitlam NDP MLA Rick Glumac said.

Port Moody Mayor Meghan Lahti is also hopeful that a clean energy development goes in.

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But she said whatever the site is used for, Port Moody wants to see it happen “sooner than later.”

“We’ve been waiting for something like this,” she said.

“Anything that comes in there is going to be a benefit to the taxpayers.”

Click to play video: 'BC Hydro looks to expand its renewable energy supply'

BC Hydro looks to expand its renewable energy supply

Lahti said when the plant was decommissioned in 2016, Port Moody lost close to four per cent of its tax base.

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The city has increasingly faced pressure in the years since, as its tax base has flipped from primarily heavy industry to primarily residential.

She said the site is ideally suited for industrial use, as it is connected to a rail spur, and has deep water access.

The Port of Vancouver has also expressed interest in the site, according to Lahti.

One former B.C. environment minister who now works with an energy advocacy group, however, said B.C. should be careful about losing non-hydro power generating capacity from the grid.

Barry Penner noted that B.C. remains in a multi-year drought, with growing concern about water levels in the hydroelectric dams that provide the vast majority of the province’s power.

Low reservoir levels led the province to import about 10,000 gigawatt hours of electricity in 2023, about a fifth of its total load.

“It’s a pretty dramatic amount of electricity we are importing right now and we are doing that because we have had record low snowpack and the energy planners at BC Hydro are looking to the future for the rest of the year and you can’t count on big reservoir outflows,” Penner said.

Click to play video: 'BC Hydro preparing for lower reservoir levels'

BC Hydro preparing for lower reservoir levels

In addition to supplying an alternative source of power, the Burrard site is also ideally located within Metro Vancouver and is already connected to the grid in three locations, he said.

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“You don’t want to give up a site like that because it is so difficult to permit something like that today, there would just be so much opposition,” he said.

“I am hoping it can be used for perhaps research and development for clean hydrogen development or other alternative fuels, other ways of getting electrify into our system in a clean fashion, because we are going to require more electricity.”

Aquino acknowledged the province was currently importing a “significant amount” of power due to the drought, but said BC Hydro remained confident it is able to meet the province’s electricity needs.

He also pointed to the Crown corporation’s call for new power producrs, which aims to have new private renewable generating capacity feeding the grid as early as 2028.

BC Hydro said it is in the process of consulting with contractors for insight about how to dismantle the site, as well as a timeline and cost for the work.

The Crown corporation is also consulting with First Nations and stakeholders.

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