PREMIER Christy Clark announced on Tuesday that the Province has approved the Site C Clean Energy Project, concluding it will provide British Columbia with the most affordable, reliable clean power for over 100 years.
“Affordable, reliable, clean electricity is the backbone of British Columbia’s economy. Site C will support our quality of life for decades to come and will enable continued investment and a growing economy,” said Clark.
B.C.’s population and economy are growing, and the demand for power is expected to increase by 40% over the next 20 years. Site C will be required even with BC Hydro’s ambitious Power Smart programs that are targeted to meet 78% of future electricity growth.
“British Columbia has the third-lowest electricity rates in North America and we need to meet our future needs in a way that keeps rates down,” said Bill Bennett, Minister of Energy and Mines. “It’s clear that to keep rates low, we must choose the option of building Site C.”
Over the first 50 years of Site C’s project life, ratepayers will save an average of $650 to $900 million each year, compared to alternatives – this amounts to average annual savings of approximately six to eight per cent for the typical household. The project will generate a century of low-cost power, providing enough electricity for about 450,000 homes per year – an eight-per-cent increase in supply to BC Hydro’s system in 2024.
As the third project on the Peace River, the firm energy it provides will support the development of more independent power projects (IPPs) by backing-up intermittent resources, such as wind. IPPs currently provide 25% of B.C.’s electricity and will continue to play a vital role in meeting the province’s energy needs.
“Site C is essential to keeping the lights on while maintaining low rates for our customers,” said Jessica McDonald, president and CEO of BC Hydro. “This project will build on the success of our existing hydroelectric system and benefit British Columbians for generations to come.”
The capital-cost estimate for the project has been updated to $8.335 billion, and government has also established a project reserve of an additional $440 million to account for events outside of BC Hydro’s control that could occur over an eight-year construction period, such as higher than forecast inflation or interest rates, for a total of up to $8.775 billion. The reserve is subject to provincial Treasury Board approval.
The project, which has undergone a thorough and independent multi-year environmental assessment process, will start construction in summer 2015 and will provide approximately 10,000 direct construction jobs.
“Today’s announcement is a historic milestone and we look forward to building this important provincial project,” said Susan Yurkovich, executive vice-president responsible for Site C. “We will continue to work with First Nations, communities and landowners to ensure that we deliver on our commitments and realize the many benefits of this project.”
BUT NDP Leader John Horgan warned that Clark was making a $9 billion gamble by moving ahead now with Site C, without knowing its full cost or whether B.C. needs the power and suggested that she should send the project for an expert independent review that includes energy alternatives.
“This project should not go forward without the independent and professional oversight of the B.C. Utilities Commission,” said Horgan. “A responsible government would instruct B.C. Hydro to submit an alternative energy plan to the BCUC to be compared to Site C.
“British Columbians deserve an independent assessment of the jobs and environmental benefits B.C. could have with a $9 billion investment in a plan that includes renewable geothermal, solar and wind energy and conservation through extensive home, commercial and industrial retrofits.”
Horgan said that the premier’s announcement is the result of bad policy and even worse timing. First, the B.C. Liberals restricted B.C. Hydro from developing small-scale hydro, wind, geothermal and solar projects. Second, built on the premier’s timetable Site C will lose $800 million in its first four years of operation, hurting families paying their Hydro bills and hurting important industries and the people they employ.
“Energy markets are changing, with lower cost solar panels, improvements in geothermal, and advances in building energy efficiency giving us new alternatives for job creating, non-emitting sources of power,” said Horgan.
“British Columbians can’t take the premier at her word anymore. The B.C. Liberals’ refusal to allow independent oversight means British Columbians don’t have hard numbers on the cost of this project or how it compares to alternative energy sources.”
Horgan said that in announcing the decision to build the dam, Premier Clark glossed over very serious issues around consultation with First Nations that have yet to be addressed. He added that an alternative plan focused on other renewables and conservation would lead to opportunities for First Nations.
“Distributed renewable and conservation projects have a lot of advantages, including creating jobs throughout the province. They can also improve the robustness of our power grid and they can lower transmission losses since energy is consumed closer to where it is produced.
“Until we see Site C held up against the same investment in renewables and conservation, British Columbians won’t have a complete picture of the costs involved or the potential for new jobs, and we should not be going ahead. These decisions should be left to the professionals, not the partisan politicians.”