Roller-compacted concrete at the stilling basin on the south bank of the Peace River for the Site C dam, September 2017. (B.C. Hydro)

B.C. VIEWS: Dam decision a big test for NDP

Alternatives to completing Site C not pleasant for John Horgan

It may seem far away to most readers, but the Site C dam decision facing the B.C. NDP government will affect you in more ways than just your electricity bill.

We’ve just had the latest round of overheated news coverage on the most expensive construction project ever undertaken in B.C., centred around the shocking revelation that the third dam on the Peace River is behind schedule and over budget. Of course those who were paying attention knew this weeks before, when B.C. Hydro CEO Chris O’Riley confirmed it in a letter to the B.C. Utilities Commission.

The cost estimate is approaching $10 billion, up from $8.3 billion when it began two years ago. And now with a one-year delay in diverting the river to perform the critical stage of construction, O’Riley says it can still be completed at the target year of 2024.

The commission’s review of the project was pushed through in a hurry at the direction of Premier John Horgan, who has committed to deciding whether to scrap the project or carry on with it by the end of 2017. This hasty report has resulted in a field day for the anti-dam industry that has sprung up around the project.

The short version of the commission’s report is that it would cost $10 billion to complete the most efficient hydro dam in North America, and $4 billion to stop it, wind up contracts that have been signed, and put the site back to the way it was.

The report discusses ways B.C. Hydro could provide additional power for a growing province without Site C. One way would be to use the smart grid that has been installed at great cost to implement “time-of-use” electricity pricing.

That means raising electricity rates at peak demand times, mainly early evenings, and lowering them at off-peak times. In political terms, Horgan would have to shut down the biggest construction project in the province, lay everyone off, and then tell people they should run their dishwashers and clothes dryers in the middle of the night.

Here’s a key quote from the review panel’s report:

“The panel believes increasingly viable alternative energy sources such as wind, geothermal and industrial curtailment could provide similar benefits to ratepayers as the Site C project with an equal or lower unit energy cost.”

Note the word “could.” Geothermal energy is Green Party leader Andrew Weaver’s favourite topic these days, but nobody really knows how much that would cost to develop and connect to the B.C. Hydro grid.

As for “industrial curtailment,” that means shutting down mills and mines. The Horgan hardhat tour would likely be put on hold for a while.

Site C fake news has become a bit of an industry on its own, from fantastic claims about how many people could be fed by the strips of land that would be flooded, to a “tension crack” reported by one of the failed political candidates in the region that turned out to be an access road.

The two Indigenous chiefs who have had their anti-Site C cases tossed out of court across the country held one more media event at the legislature earlier this month. Meanwhile other Indigenous communities with project jobs and better territorial claims to the dam site await their fate once the political circus folds its tent.

Weaver has allowed that he won’t defeat the B.C. NDP government if it proceeds with Site C. But he continues to insist that thousands of new electric cars can be recharged with wind and solar power.

Tom Fletcher is B.C. legislature reporter and columnist for Black Press. Email: tfletcher@blackpress.ca


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Critical Condition: ‘People are dying from treatable medical conditions’

Problems with ambulance service policies are systemic and province-wide, advocacy group leader says.

BC BUDGET: New spaces a step to universal child care

Fees reduced for licensed daycare operators

BC BUDGET: NDP cracks down on speculators, hidden ownership

Foreign buyers’ tax extended to Fraser Valley, Okanagan, Vancouver Island

BC BUDGET: Payroll tax replaces medical premiums

Health spending to increase $1.5 billion for drugs, primary care teams

B.C. freestyle skier wins gold

Cassie Sharpe of Comox shines in the halfpipe

VIDEO: Top 10 B.C. budget highlights

The NDP is focusing on childcare, affordable housing and speeding up the elimination of MSP premiums

How to keep local news visible in your Facebook feed

Facebook has changed the news feed to emphasize personal connections. You might see less news.

WATCH: Vancouver Island family builds eight-foot igloo in their yard

Sunday snowfall on the mid-Island leads to all-day family activity

Three new judges appointed to B.C. Supreme Court

Two spots filled in Vancouver, one in New Westminster

BCHL Today: Merritt’s Buckley nets scholarship and Vees slam Salmon Arm

BCHL Today is a (near) daily look at what’s going on around the league and the junior A world.

Trial date delayed in case of slain Victoria sisters

Andrew Berry’s next court appearance will be in three weeks to set a date for trial to begin

B.C. MP invites convicted terrorist to Trudeau reception in India

Jaspal Atwal was convicted of trying to assassinate an Indian cabinet minister

OLYMPIC ROUNDUP: Women’s ice hockey team loses first Olympic game in 20 years

Team Canada added two silvers and a bronze to their total

Canadian support split on Trans Mountain pipeline debate: Poll

Angus Reid poll surveying Canadians on pipeline stance finds no clear winner

Most Read