Editorial: There’s no good Plan B for Site C in B.C.

The previous BC Liberal government’s decision to build a third dam on the Peace River without the multibillion-dollar project first undergoing BC Utilities Commission (BCUC) scrutiny has left the province with a lot of Site C choices. None of them are good.

The BCUC’s final report on the $8.3 billion hydroelectric project that will add billions more to taxpayer debt confirms that.

It also confirms as Business in Vancouver has previously reported, that BC Hydro’s energy demand forecasts, and its cost estimates for alternatives to a megaproject that will flood more productive farm and ranch land in the north and generate energy at costs far higher than market prices, have been suspect all along.

Among the troubling numbers in the BCUC report: the dam will now cost at least $10 billion; cancelling the project will add another $1.8 billion to the $2.1 billion that will already have been spent by year’s end.

Among the BCUC  review panel’s troubling findings: “the accuracy of BC Hydro’s historical industrial forecasts looking out three and six years has been considerably below industry benchmarks.”

Concerns over Hydro’s power demand forecasts are not new. In its final report on Hydro’s original 1980 application for an energy project certificate for Site C, the BCUC panel reviewing the application questioned Hydro’s “optimistic” probable load forecast used to justify the project.

Hydro has also projected that population growth of roughly 1.2 million (27%) over the next 20 years will increase electricity needs 40% over 2012’s demand, even though a population increase of 1.1 million (33%) in the previous 20 years increased demand by only 22%.

A bright side to the Site C debacle would be another independent review – this one an analysis of BC Hydro management and the direction it takes from the provincial government to ensure that future taxpayer investments in B.C.’s power grid and rich energy heritage are based on marketplace reality rather than megaproject manipulation.