UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Planning for climatic variability Rutgers, P. U.


According to most climatologists the recent weather extremes are symptomatic of the return to a more variable climate after an unusually warm and stable thirty to forty years that came to an end in the early 1970s. This prolonged climatic stability has institutionalised the concept of a stable climate among most policy and decision makers and consequently, most life support systems, food, energy and water have been planned for too narrow a range of climatic variability. Recent events begin to illustrate the serious impacts that a more variable, but more normal, climate has on these systems. This thesis has attempted to: 1. Assess the impact of increased climatic variability on the generating capacity of the Mica and Revelstoke Dams projects and other components of B.C. Hydro's integrated power generation system. 2. Develop a planning response to climatic variability in the context of electricity generation planning in British Columbia. The study included a review of literature on climatic change, a review of literature on planning under uncertainty, the development of a planning model and the application of this model to the hydroelectric developments in the Upper Columbia River Basin. The planning model is iterative and recognises seven phases: problem recognition, system identification, identification of uncertainty, exploration of uncertainty, formulation of alternatives, evaluation, and development of a commitment package. The case study provides an application of this model to the management of the Mica and Revelstoke Dams, and the construction and management of other components of the integrated generation system. The forty year streamflow record (1928-1968), the basis of generation planning, appears to be unusually stable when compared to historic variability as indicated by relevant tree-ring data. The "critical" period on which the system's firm energy capability is based is exceeded in the Lake Athabasca chronology. This tree-ring chronology, which correlates well with the Columbia River streamflow, contains evidence of a drought, twice the magnitude and three times the duration of the critical period, which might have struck the Rocky Mountains between 1864 and 1880. Under these conditions the Mica and Revelstoke Dams would generate respectively 19$ and 17-8$ below design production. These losses could be absorbed by the,integrated system, but further reductions in output, possibly arising in the post draw-down period might, beyond 1980, lead to overall supply shortfalls. If this drought were to simultaneously affect all hydroelectric generation plants, power shortages of between 2$ and 6$ of annual demand loads could be expected. To improve the electricity generating system's resilience to climatic variability, it is recommended that initially B.C. Hydro develop and implement an energy conservation program, which would reduce forecasted demands by 6% by 1980, contract power to new industrial customers on an interruptible basis, extend the streamflow records of the Peace and Columbia Rivers by means of tree-rings and monitor climatic research. The extended record should form the basis of a new energy capability balance and some of the options the authority could then consider are the creation of a thermal power reserve, the increase of live storage in existing and future reservoirs, the installation of additional generating equipment and the development of contingency plans to further curtail demand and utilise the thermal reserve.

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