Revelstoke Dam Unit 6 ‘postponed indefinitely’

BC Hydro project with estimated $45 million in local spending was in planning and consultation for several years

The Revelstoke Dam pictured in May 2022. The sixth empty penstock is to the right of the image. Photo: Aaron Orlando/Revelstoke Mountaineer Magazine

This story is part of a feature that first appeared in print in Revelstoke Mountaineer Magazine’s July 2022 issue. Read the entire e-edition here:

A major hydroelectric project with significant economic spinoffs for the Revelstoke economy has been quietly dropped by BC Hydro.

BC Hydro now says Revelstoke Unit 6, which would have put a generator into the sixth and final empty turbine bay in Revelstoke Dam, is postponed indefinitely.

BC Hydro had done significant local and regional consultation on Unit 6 in the past five years with BC Hydro projecting need by about 2026, but a late 2021 filing with the BC Utilities Commission revealed the BC Hydro utility is no longer pursuing plans.

In response to an inquiry from Revelstoke Mountaineer Magazine, BC Hydro regional spokesperson Sally MacDonald said the filing meant Unit 6 is on hold indefinitely. “In December BC Hydro filed Clean Power 2040, our Integrated Resource Plan, with the B.C. Utilities Commission. The Plan is not forecasting a need for a sixth generating unit at Revelstoke Dam over the next 20 years. Considering these factors, BC Hydro is postponing the Revelstoke Unit 6 project indefinitely,” she wrote.

Macdonald added that forecasts are subject to change and we continue to monitor the growth in electricity demand. Revelstoke Unit 6 is one of several resources BC Hydro could call upon in a contingency scenario. “Under these scenarios, Unit 6 would not be needed until the late 2030s,” MacDonald wrote.

When the dam was built, it was designed to hold six generating units, but only four were installed. A fifth was later added and began operating in 2010.

A 2017 BC Hydro estimate said the 500-megawatt generating unit would create 400 person-years of temporary employment and “generate local spending of about $45 million for goods, materials and services.”

It would have also involved an additional water licence for an additional 3,000 cubic feet per second to allow for peak operation.

Development of the project is complex and involves consultation with a range of groups and environmental assessments and licences.

Aaron Orlando is a Revelstoke-based journalist who serves as creative director of revelstokemountaineer.com and Revelstoke Mountaineer Magazine. He's been on the news beat in Revelstoke for the past 14 years, serving in senior editorial roles. If you have aaron@revelstokemountaineer.com or call/text him at 250-814-8710.