Trading in organized lightning (electricity): the B.C. hydroelectric system advantage

February 9, 2021
Denise Mullen


  • Humans will trade with or without companies or countries because we cannot produce everything we need and want. Trade in 2020 represents 60% of GDP up from 1% 100 years ago.
  • Electricity, like all forms of energy, is traded, but the exchange of electrons is unlike other commodities for one fundamental reason — electricity demand must always equal supply — a critical attribute for understanding trade in electricity.
  • Another important attribute of electricity trade is that it happens regionally rather than continentally, and this is by design for reliability reasons. And for this reason, electricity trade happens every hour of every day, 365 days per year.
  • The western interconnection — Western Electricity Coordinating Council — one of eight and the largest region in North America — generates about 800,000 GWh from ~274,000 GW of installed capacity, shipping it along 200,000 km of transmission lines, and delivering over thousands of kilometres of distribution lines to about 80 million people between Alberta and Baja California, Mexico.
  • The British Columbia electricity system represents 10% of all generation and transmission in the WECC region but B.C. also has a significant comparative advantage because of its mostly hydroelectric generation and storage capacity — a highly flexible resource that can be ramped with relative ease to buy, shape, and sell electrons for the benefit of British Columbians.
  • A transition to clean electricity is seen as the main solution to managing greenhouse gases. British Columbia has already achieved what most jurisdiction dream about. As such we have a sizable comparative advantage and opportunity created by wise investments of the past.

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