A public utility is a person or company who owns or operates equipment or facilities for:
- the production of generation, storage, transmission and/or distribution of electricity, natural gas, steam or any other agent in the production of light, heat, cold or power for the public or a corporation.
- the transmission of information or communications by electromagnetic waves including systems of cable, microwave, optical fibre or radio-communications if that service is offered to the public at cost.
In British Columbia, electric utilities include:
- Publicly-owned Crown Corporations;
- Regulated private utilities;
- Municipally-owned entities; and
- Investor-owned entities.
British Columbia Hydro and Power Authority (BC Hydro) is a Crown corporation, owned by the Provincial Government. It is established under the Hydro and Power Authority Act. BC Hydro's primary business functions are the generation and distribution of electricity. The BC Hydro Public Power Legacy and Heritage Contract Act ensures that British Columbia's electricity assets, including transmission and distribution lines, must remain publicly owned.
British Columbia Transmission Corporation (BCTC) is a Crown Corporation, also owned by the Provincial Government. BCTC’s mandate is to plan, build, operate and maintain BC Hydro’s electrical transmission system. It ensures open and non-discriminatory access to the transmission system for all power producers and market participants. BCTC is also responsible to ensure the province’s electricity transmission system meets required planning and reliability standards.
The Transmission Corporation Act and Key Agreements established under that Act set out the roles and responsibilities of BCTC. The Act also stipulates that the shares of BCTC must be held by the government and cannot be sold.
Columbia Power Corporation (CPC), in joint venture with Columbia Basin Trust (CBT), owns and administers hydroelectric power assets in the Columbia Basin. CPC's primary mandate is to undertake power project investments, as an agent of the Province. These power projects include the Arrow Lakes Generating Station, Brilliant Expansion Project, and the Waneta Expansion Project.
Regulated Private Utilities
FortisBC is a private, regulated utility that generates and distributes electricity to customers throughout south-central B.C. It is B.C.’s second largest electricity retailer with approximately 1,450 km of high voltage transmission lines and approximately 5,550 km of distribution lines. Fortis BC’s transmission system connects with BC Hydro and Teck to improve overall provincial system integration.
Nelson Hydro operates generation, transmission and distribution facilities in and around the City of Nelson.
The City of New Westminster, City of Grand Forks, City of Kelowna, City of Penticton, Summerland Power and Hemlock Valley Utilities operate distribution systems for local residential, commercial and industrial customers. These utilities purchase electricity from BC Hydro or FortisBC.
Independent power producers (IPP’s)s, large industrial customers and industrial self generators own their own transmission interconnections linking them to the transmission grid. IPP's are public utilities by definition under the Utilities Commission Act and are exempt from price regulation by Ministerial Order. The BCUC regulates the contracts that IPP enter into with electricity distribution utilities.
Teck owns the 386 mW Waneta Dam on the Pend d'Oreille River and a 15 km transmission line that connects its operations to the Bonneville Power Administration system in the United States.
Alcan owns the 890 mW Kemano Project and an 82 km power line which links its operations to the BC Hydro grid.
BCTC works with electrical utilities in Alberta and the Western U.S., as well as relevant regulatory agencies, to plan and develop improvements to the electricity transmission infrastructure across jurisdictions. Such projects create new electricity trade opportunities for B.C.
Powerex, a BC Hydro subsidiary, trades electricity with other jurisdictions to ensure B.C. ratepayers are able to get the best value from BC Hydro’s generation infrastructure. Powerex purchases electricity from neighbouring jurisdictions when prices are low and then sells electricity when the market price is higher. Any net income from trading, up to $200 million, is returned to BC Hydro ratepayers through lower electricity rates.
- Click for BCUC’s listing of contact information for various utilities.
- Click for the Utilities Commission Act.