An opportunity for geothermal energy in B.C.

Clean Capital News (Geothermal Plant) (Scott Ableman)

By James Noble

October 16, 2014

B.C. has no geothermal power generation, but according to new research released by Canada’s geothermal energy sector, B.C. could generate 5,500 megawatts of power from geothermal sources—equivalent to the amount of electricity from Site C hydroelectric damn, at prices of 10-cents per kilowatt hour or less.

The provincial government is preparing to make a decision on whether to go ahead with Site C sometime in November. A Joint Review Panel that examined BC Hydro’s application for Site C noted that there were potential alternatives that hadn’t been fully explored, including geothermal.However, it is uncertain whether this new research will have an impact on the government’s decision making process.

Utility-scale geothermal energy involves drilling thousands of meters into the earth to tap hot spots, like volcanic zones, to draw heat to the surface to generate steam to drive power turbines. Among the advantages of geothermal power is that it involves low running costs, as no fuel is needed to generate energy, it is reliable, and it does not create pollution.

As countries around the world attempt to reduce their reliance on fossil fuels, geothermal energy is viewed as a new source of clean power generation. Japan, for example, currently has 17 geothermal power stations and has plans to develop more. France also has plans to increase its use of geothermal energy. Currently, Paris has the world’s second-largest concentration of geothermal wells, after Iceland, and is developing a 13-kilometre geothermal network that will ultimately bring heat to 180,000 Parisian homes.

Canada currently has no commercial geothermal power plants despite abundant potential.  Though all countries that sit on the Pacific Ring of Fire have commercial geothermal plants, Canada is the only exception.  Ironically, Canadian energy companies run geothermal power plants around the world.

British Columbia and the Yukon have the greatest potential for geothermal resources and both regions are also blessed with cheap and clean hydropower from long-running generating stations. After establishing provincial leadership in clean energy policies – most notably, carbon taxation – geothermal energy provides an opportunity for the province to reinforce its commitment to low carbon development.


Photo Credit: Scott Ableman