Low snowpacks contribute to an increase in the cost of electricity
Sinking snow pack levels may lead to rising power costs in B.C.
B.C. Hydro has filed a revised application to the B.C. Utilities Commission asking for an increase in hydro rates of 8.9 per cent in fiscal 2005 and zero in 2006.
The original application called for a nine per cent increase spread over the two years seven per cent in 2005, two per cent in 2006.
If the BCUC agrees following the public hearing, which starts May 17, it means that consumers would see a nearly two per cent rise over what was expected.
For example a customer who has an existing bill for $100 will see it rise to $108.90 in the late fall when the rate increase becomes effective. Under the old proposal the bill would have been $107.23.
While a number of factors are at play, said Hydro spokeswoman Elisha Moreno, lower than hoped for rainfall and low snowpacks are front and centre.
"When we did our initial revenue requirements applications back in December we were going on the best data we had at the time, which was the most recent snowpack forecast," said Moreno.
"Since then obviously there has been a couple more and we have discovered that there hasnt been as much rainfall and snowpack as we would like to see, making those levels average to below average across the province, depending on the basin you are looking at."
If there are low water levels in the power reservoirs Hydro cannot produce as much power as it may need to and it may have to look at importing power from the U.S.
B.C Hydro wont have detailed snowpack level figures available until next week.
But Dave Gooding, senior forecast hydrologist with the Ministry of Water, Land and Air Protection, said levels were definitely down in the Columbia region, home to B.C. Hydros second biggest dam system.
"The Columbia basin index, which is the upper and lower Columbia, is at 89 per cent of normal and the Kootenay Basin is at 84 per cent of normal," he said
"This is the second year in a row we have had low levels. Last year they were at 84 per cent and 82 per cent."
The south end of the Columbia basin and the Kootenays have also had lower than normal precipitation and the last four months have been one to three degrees warmer than normal.
That drying trend can be expected to continue said Gooding, adding that warmer temperatures will come with the dry weather.
But its not all bad news. The snowpack levels for Vancouver Island and the coast from north to south, including Howe Sound, are all about average.
Analysis by the Greater Vancouver Regional District has found that snowpacks in that area are about average.
"We just got the April snowpack reading," said Paul Archibald, division manager for systems operations for the GVRD.
"We are right on the 20 year average."
There is about 406 cm of snow. That translates into about 185 cm of water. The twenty year average is 418 cm.
The snowpack is measured, said Archibald, so engineers know what is available just in case it is needed. It would become part of the water calculation if the spring was exceptionally dry or a hot summer came early.
For now things are on target for the GVRD.
"The reservoirs are filling up," said Archibald.
"We expect to be 100 per cent full and on target for June 1."