British Columbia’s controversial and massively expensive Site C hydro dam is on track to lose the province billions of dollars on power exports and should be put on hold for further review, according to a report released earlier this week by the University of British Columbia Program on Water Governance.
“The business case for Site C is far weaker now than when the project was launched, to the point that the project is now uneconomic,” said co-author Karen Bakker. “The good news is that we are not past the point of no return, according to our analysis.”
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The research team concluded that competing wind generation and energy efficiency options have become cheaper, electricity demand has “dropped significantly”, and power from the massive project won’t be needed “for nearly 10 years after the project’s expected completion date in 2024,” CBC reports. “Under BC Hydro’s forecast demand, the analysis found, cumulative losses would be nearing $2.7 billion by 2036.”
UBC concluded that suspending the project would save provincial ratepayers $870 million. Cancelling it outright by the end of June would save more than $1.6 billion.
But on the campaign trail, B.C. Premier Christy Clark was undeterred. “Growth means our electricity needs to keep up and so we need reliable power,” she told media. “So if the electricity isn’t going to be needed for 10 years, when do they expect us to start it? Nine years from now? Eleven years from now?” she asked.
DeSmog Canada marked the report release with an inventory of “five facepalm-worthy facts” from the new analysis: The province has a long history of over-estimating power demand, Site C power may never be needed, the project keeps getting more expensive, Site C energy is now more expensive than “21st century renewables”, and the need to justify the project has led the province to cancel all its energy efficiency programs.
“The decision to scale back on energy conservation right now is essentially designed to get people to consume more and, yeah, pay higher bills,” Bakker told DeSmog.
“That makes sense if you consider the very large debt load that B.C. Hydro is taking on to pay for Site C,” she said. “The unfortunate side of this is that energy conservation is a lot cheaper than Site C. Energy conservation only costs about a third as much as building Site C. We’ve met all of our energy needs for the past several years through energy conservation,” and the province could continue doing just that for the next decade.