Site C: Let's put the brakes on this energy boondoggle

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Preliminary Report on Site C should be posted here later on today

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Site C Dam $600 Million Over Budget, Will Miss River Diversion Timeline, Says BC Hydro CEO

BC Hydro’s new CEO Chris O’Riley has written a letter to the B.C. Utilities Commission stating that the crown corporation will not meet the timeline for river diversion for the Site C dam, which will add $610 million to the project’s price tag.

“BC Hydro has encountered some geotechnical and construction challenges on the project and the risk to the river diversion timeline has now materialized,” O’Riley wrote.

“Based on the recent completion of a constructability review and an executive meeting with our Main Civil Works contractor on September 27, 2017, we have now determined that we will not be able to meet the current timeline for river diversion in 2019.”....

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Surprised to be Heard: Presenters at Site C Inquiry Find Their Voice


Eoin Finn, a retired KPMG partner, challenged BC Hydro’s lack of demand-side management (industry speak for reducing energy consumption, a.k.a. PowerSmart). According to the Clean Energy Act which governs the utility, conservation is supposed to be used for two-thirds of all energy demand forecast. In other words, if we need 5,100 gigawatt hours of energy, 3,700 gigawatts should come from energy conservation.

“BC Hydro seems to have forgotten about that,” Finn said later in an interview. “We should only be putting in one-third of what we need into any demand profile. If we need 5,100 gigawatts, we should only build one-third of it, roughly 1,700 gigawatts.”

Regarding the argument that there’s only so much energy conservation possible, as a former BC Hydro manager said, Finn laughed. “If they look at their comparables from Maine to California, they’ll find several examples that are doing at least four per-cent demand-side management per year, compounded. When you compound four per-cent a year, it gets up there pretty quick. If BC Hydro were to do anything of the same, by the time we get to Site C, we would certainly not need it.” Right now, he says BC Hydro is reporting a one per-cent demand-side management savings. “In 2017, they spent $97 Million for a paltry one per-cent saving, or 602-Gigawatt hours.”

Physician and former Vancouver city councillor Fred Bass also critiqued BC Hydro’s focus on increasing supply over incentivizing conservation. He recommended to the panel that the utility be renamed and reorganized into the BC Energy Conservation Authority. “If terminating the project leads to a major change in the way B.C. deals with energy conservation, whether termination costs $1 billion or $3 billion, it would be a victory,” he said.

The Clean Energy Act’s focus on demand-side management is contrary to the previous government’s “build it and they will come” mantra. Last year, former energy minister Bill Bennett responded to questions about the need for Site C by saying, “Our opportunity is to drive demand. It’s to get people to use more electricity.”

Lots of speakers addressed agriculture and food security. “The agricultural potential in the Peace River valley is incomparable. It is by far the best farmland that we have,” said Julian Napoleon. “I do a lot of talks around the country about food security, and I can tell you that people in the Arctic are facing a severe food crisis. The Peace River valley is the northernmost prime agricultural area in the country. It’s an anomaly. You can grow crops there that you don’t see until you get south to the Okanagan.”

Applause was sparse, but came most often when speakers talked about First Nations rights. Rita Wong, an environmental humanities professor, spoke of the cost the Treaty 8 First Nations have borne for resource extraction in their territory, particularly from WAC Bennett dam.

“People in Vancouver need to realize where their electricity comes from. I think about the colonial violence and the historical destruction of communities that’s embedded in the flick of a light switch,” she said. “I realize that I am, on a daily basis, implicated in that history. We can't change that history. What we can change is how we respond to it by not destroying more the Peace River Valley.” Wong says her involvement in Site C opposition is a way of active reconciliation with First Nations.

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Hudson’s Hope Goes Solar As Town Faces Site C’s Biggest Impacts

Hudson’s Hope, the municipality that would be most affected by the Site C dam, is going solar with a blast.

“It’s starting to look like a real, honest to goodness twenty-first century solar community,” said Don Pettit of the Peace Energy Renewable Energy Cooperative, the business that recently installed 1,580 photovoltaic panels, giving Hudson’s Hope the largest municipal solar array in the province.

The panels — in more than a half-dozen locations, including on the rooftops of the public works shop, municipal building, curling rink, arena, and beside sewage treatment lagoons — will save an estimated $70,000 a year in hydro bills, according to Hudson’s Hope mayor Gwen Johansson.

“Over 30 years, that amounts to savings of more than two million dollars,” Johansson told DeSmog Canada. “If hydro rates go up the savings will be even greater.”

Johansson said Site C had nothing to do with the district’s decision to embrace solar, even though the project’s impacts on Hudson’s Hope will be extensive.

“It’s purely a financial decision,” she said. “It’s a pragmatic cost saving.”

Despite conservation efforts such as installing LED lights in the town arena and other district buildings, Johansson said Hudson Hope’s annual hydro bill climbed from $68,000 in 2000 to $172,000 in 2016.

The cost of electricity for buildings with solar panels will be reduced by an average 75 per cent, according to the mayor.....

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District of Hudson's Hope Solar Array


Why British Columbians Should Demand a Public Inquiry on the Site C Dam

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Horgan on Site C: ‘I Told You So’ Doesn’t Mean It’s Dead

The British Columbia Utilities Commission’s report on the Site C dam project confirms the former government was wrong to start construction, but it doesn’t make the current government’s decision on whether to continue easy, Premier John Horgan said Thursday.

“I take no comfort in saying ‘I told you so,’ but I have been talking about the challenges of proceeding with a multi-billion dollar project without any third party oversight,” Horgan said, adding that the BCUC exists to protect ratepayers from governments making bad decisions.


Horgan said the BCUC report won’t necessarily lead cabinet to decide to stop the project. “This is a serious situation that is going to have a significant impact on everything that we do going forward,” he said. “We’re going to take the time and look at the report. We’re going to do some analysis of what the consequences would be for the treasury, for taxpayers, but also what the consequences would be for BC Hydro ratepayers.”

The NDP government inherited a significant challenge and will take the time to make the right decision, Horgan said. “We have to take the broader view here,” he said. “I ran on a platform to make life more affordable for British Columbians, and this first challenge in the first 100 days is a big one and I’m going to have to grapple with it. There’s no magic fix here, but we want to make sure we do the right thing.”

After the report came out, Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources Minister Michelle Mungall said the government will consult with First Nations and make a decision before the end of the year on whether to stop the project. Suspending it is no longer an option, she said....

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On the steps of the legislature, Grand Chief Stewart Phillip told a crowd of around 150 protesters gathered Thursday that the project should be terminated and the NDP should be given time to arrive at that decision.

“I was greatly encouraged by the BCUC report,” Phillip said. “As a consequence of a very brief review, we’ve all learned what we’ve known and suspected for quite some time, that this is a completely bogus project.”

He said he doesn’t want his 15 grandchildren to have to pay for the Site C dam for the rest of their lives. “I have every confidence that the Horgan government will do the right thing,” Phillip said. “It’s going to be a very challenging decision, but I believe that based on the BCUC report and what that has revealed that they will step up and do the right thing in regard to all British Columbians.”

Phillip said people who want the project terminated need to be optimistic. “We need to support the work of this government. We have spent so many years in the trenches throwing rocks at this building over a whole number of issues, but now we have a government that’s willing to invest in the people of British Columbia, so we have to give them the benefit of the doubt.

“We need to give them the necessary support to be able to make the right decision and to re-elect this government the next time out, so we can continue moving into a more progressive future in the province of British Columbia and move away from these silly notions of the megaprojects and everything the Clark government represented.”

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The End of Site C? BC Utilities Commission finds “tension cracks” in BC Hydro’s case for the mega dam


First of all, the project is neither on time nor on budget. The report says “the total cost at completion may be in excess of $10.0 billion as there are significant risks remaining which could lead to further budget overruns.” On the risk of construction cost overruns, the report notes Site C “has already exceeded its budget, only two years into a nine-year schedule. There are tension cracks and disputes with its contractors, both of which remain unresolved.”

Interestingly, the economic case for Site C before BCUC was biased in favour of completion due to “sunk costs.” That is, going forward we should not count the $2 billion already spent and just look at how much it would cost to get to completion. By this formulation, it’s Site C power at a discount – although ratepayers would still have to pay for the full amount.

Even if we accept that argument, it now looks like at least another $8 billion would be needed to complete Site C rather than the $6 billion touted just a few months ago.

Second, the whole case for Site C was predicated on large increases in future demand for electricity. Most of this was from new liquefied natural gas (LNG) operations and expanded upstream gas production. But we know that the dismal economics of LNG – the cost of landing that gas in Asia is greater than the price it would receive – have led to most LNG proposals being shelved.