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

Yellow Vest movement rallied in Vernon Saturday

Protesters took to the steps of the Vernon courthouse Saturday.

Funding changes mean closure for Success By 6

B.C. making major changes to early childhood development funding

Back to work for Penticton businesses impacted by bomb threats

Multiple car dealerships were evacuated as the result of an international e-mail hoax

Okanagan College unlocks time capsule

Items placed in 1993 and kept in capsule in library opened at special ceremony

Consultations to play a critical role in shaping proposed national park reserve

Parks Canada welcomes all respectful comments on proposed South Okanagan-Similkameen National Park

Trudeau to make it harder for future PM to reverse Senate reforms

Of the 105 current senators, 54 are now independents who have banded together in Independent Senators’ Group

Yellow Vest movement rallied in Vernon Saturday

Protesters took to the steps of the Vernon courthouse Saturday.

Man dies after falling from B.C. bridge

Intoxicated man climbed railing, lost his balance and fell into the water below

B.C. animation team the ‘heart’ of new ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’

The animators, largely based in Vancouver, ultimately came up with a creative technique that is drawing praise

Light at the end of the tunnel for UN climate talks

Meeting in Katowice was meant to finalize how countries report their emissions of greenhouses gases

Janet Jackson, Def Leppard, Nicks join Rock Hall of Fame

Radiohead, the Cure, Roxy Music and the Zombies will also be ushered in at the 34th induction ceremony

Supreme Court affirms privacy rights for Canadians who share a computer

Section 8 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms protects Canadians against unreasonable search and seizure

B.C. fire chief pleads with Ottawa for traumatic stress support

Campbell River fire chief Thomas Doherty presented concerns to federal government

Most Read