BC Hydro says the cryptocurrency mines Conifex Timber Inc. is seeking to establish would consume almost half the output of the Site C hydroelectric dam if allowed to go ahead.

The Crown corporation is making the claim in a defence of an 18-month moratorium on the projects, invoked in December 2022. Conifex is challenging the moratorium via a petition to B.C. Supreme Court.

In a response filed June 27, Hydro says that according to its latest load reference forecast, it would need about 7.22 million megawatt hours of energy per year to satisfy new demand, acquisitions and other actions. Conifex’s projects, in turn, would consume 2.5 million MWh per year, Hydro maintains.

“That figure far exceeds BC Hydro’s nine largest consumer sites,” Hydro says, adding that that it did not deliver more than one million MWh to any one of those sites.

“For further context, the Conifex Projects along would use almost half of the output of the Site C Project currently under development on the Peace River at a cost of approximately $16 billion,” it says.

In a response to a request for comment from the Citizen, Conifex disputed Hydro’s assertion saying that an “incredibly complex issue” is being oversimplified and that it is seeking only 300 MWh. 

“In addition to the 1,100 MW of new supply coming from Site C, we also understand that around 1,000 MW of new supply will be solicited under the new call for renewable power that was launched last month,” the company added.

Conifex was also critical of Hydro exports of power, saying they are significant.

“We do not understand why BC Hydro exports as much power as it does, which shifts economic benefits to export customers rather than prioritizing in-province customers,” the company said.

The location of its proposed mines – Salmon Valley near Prince George and Ashton Creek southeast of Salmon Arm – would also make use of electricity that otherwise would be lost along its transmission system from the BC Peace to the Lower Mainland.

“BC Hydro’s figures indicate that its line losses are about equal to the annual power expected to be produced from Site C. Simply put, more power supply is available if BC Hydro worked to find customers who locate their businesses close to the source of power generation, which is what Conifex plans to do,” the company said.

“The important point – and the reason we launched our legal challenge – is that by directing BC Hydro to put a moratorium on a specific class of customer, the government is picking winners and losers. That’s not government’s job.”

Although better known as a sawmiller, for years Conifex has generated power at its bio-energy plant in Mackenzie and sold it to BC Hydro. By November 2021, a small-scale “high-performance computing” data centre was up and running in the community north of Prince George, pursuant to an amended energy supply agreement with the Crown corporation.

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