One day after BC Liberal leader Christy Clark campaigned at the Site C dam touting its job creation, a UBC researcher and pair of environmental consultants with the Program on Water Governance are out with a report that says the project is no longer economically viable.
The report recommends construction be suspended immediately, and that the project be reviewed by the BC Utilities Commission, something BC NDP leader John Horgan says he’d do if he wins the May 9 election.
The report found alternate options for generating electricity like wind power and energy conservation have become cheaper, and BC Hydro’s predicted demand for electricity has dropped significantly.
Report co-author Rick Hendricks says authors started by looking at BC Hydro’s own numbers going back decades.
“What we found was that right before the Site C project [was proposed] the first time, there was a load forecast that was really not realistic at all, it said the load would double by the 1990s. Well, we still haven’t reached that level today.”
He says looking at the data, little has changed to make a case for the dam.
“The load forecast declined significantly from 2012 to 2016, which means that the need for new resources of any kind has been pushed off further into the future.”
Hendricks says that falling demand will badly affect the business case for the dam because any extra power will have to be exported at market rates, rather than the guaranteed rate the Utilities Commission grants BC Hydro here in-province.
“So if it costs seven cents a kilowatt hour for the energy from Site C, and they’re selling it all in the province, they’re guaranteed to get enough revenues to cover their costs. But if they’re selling a portion of it, or all of it somewhere else there is no guarantee., So they’re going to get the price that’s in the market, which generally is three to four cents per kilowatt hour.”
He says that means power from the dam wouldn’t be needed for nearly 10 years, after its 2024 completion date.
Hendricks is also an energy consultant who in the past has represented several groups opposed to the dam.
Study co-author Karen Bakker says the business case for Site C is far weaker now than when the project was launched, and the cumulative losses would be nearly $2.7-billion by the year 2036.
But BC Liberal Leader Christy Clark says she has now plans to back away from the project.
“It’s a really clear choice. Our position on this is absolutely crystal clear. We will get Site C built, we will create the 30,000 – or the 10,000 to 30,000 jobs that will come from it, we will make sure we support the workers behind me, like the ones here in Surrey.”
The Liberals say the project is crucial to the province’s economy, and will generate enough energy to power 450,000 homes.