No rate shock from cancelling Site C: Head of review panel

Harry Swain leading the Joint Review Panel into Site C (Photo: JRP)

At a press conference earlier today, Harry Swain, head of the Joint Review Panel into Site C Dam, disputed recent claims that the costs of cancelling Site C Dam would have to be borne by ratepayers in a short timeframe that causes rates to spike. Swain made the comments as a part of a wide-ranging critique of fear-mongering coming from the pro-dam Allied Hydro Council, the Liberal Opposition, and a loaded letter from the government’s own deputy ministers. He explained:

[quote]There is no requirement that the sunk costs be paid immediately. There are lots of precedents in regulatory proceedings in Canada and the United States for these costs to be spread out over a reasonable period of time, and so I don’t think that is going to be the source of a rate shock for BC.[/quote]

Swain suggested the BCUC’s projected remediation costs were too high as well. “We are still mired in this sunk cost fallacy. Probably the one area where I disagreed with the BCUC was their contribution of about $1.9 Billion for remediation. I think that’s too high…I don’t think it’s a real issue.”

Swain also shot down other common attacks of the BC Utilities Commission’s report on Site C, such as its use of the lower end of Hydro’s demand forecasts:

[quote]It was severely critical of BC Hydro’s load forecasting ability…noting that in forecasts going back fifty years, 77% of the time, they had been high to way-too-high. They showed the increased attractiveness of the termination scenario, the lower the actual load turns out to be. In other words, if you adopted the load forecast that was given by BC Hydro, which the BCUC was constrained to do, you could be drawn to the notion that we needed the power early on. The Utilities Commission said, “Nah”. The low forecast – they had a band, high, medium, low – is the one that we would use and there are a number of considerations that could make the reality less than that.[/quote]

“Even by Hydro’s account, we don’t need new power until somewhere in the middle of the 2030’s,” added Swain. “By better load forecasting, that’s probably put off to the 2040’s.”

Swain was highly dismissive of the two deputy ministers, Dave Nikolejsin and Lori Wanamaker, who challenged the BCUC report, including its use of low-end demand forecasting, questioning whether they had even bothered to read it.

Swain also picked apart the contention of the Allied Hydro Council – which is made up of unions seeking jobs from Site C construction – that Site C is important for “decarbonization” – a “serious, serious issue”, he acknowledged. “British Columbia is not the greatest sinner in this respect [and] has considerable capacity for further generation that does not emit carbon dioxide or methane, that does not involve damming a river.”

[quote]The argument that we cannot integrate renewable energy into the system because of its intermittency and its non-dispatchability doesn’t work very well. First off, we have more storage than just about anybody else…Second, we have some million-and-half acre-feet [of storage] coming back to us [from the Columbia River Dams] in 2024 – coincidentally, the date that Site C is supposed to be finished – which is non-treaty storage and ours to do with as we like. Even BC Hydro says that we can integrate on the order of more than a third of renewables in the existing system without new storage.[/quote]

Finally, he noted that Site C, essentially a large run-of-river project as opposed to a storage dam, has only 0.4% of the storage capacity of the Williston Reservoir – making the argument for Site C over other renewables like wind and solar a moot point.

Swain’s comments come as the NDP cabinet is rumoured to be on the verge of announcing its decision on the project.


About Damien Gillis

Damien Gillis is a Vancouver-based documentary filmmaker with a focus on environmental and social justice issues - especially relating to water, energy, and saving Canada's wild salmon - working with many environmental organizations in BC and around the world. He is the co-founder, along with Rafe Mair, of The Common Sense Canadian, and a board member of both the BC Environmental Network and the Haig-Brown Institute.

8 thoughts on “No rate shock from cancelling Site C: Head of review panel

  1. One thing Horgan should get clear, rate increases will be part of the NDP legacy whether the cancelled Site C or not. The corporate media hacks will preach this from their ivory towers ad nauseam. Christy will never be tarred with this messy white elephant debacle. She has done the work of the corporate interests and will get off free and clear. Every political land mine that Christy left including her massive debt will be blamed on Horgan. I hope he realises those who are not his friends and when the project is finished, what part of the environment does he sacrifice to keep the construction industry afloat temporarily? When it is all gone, what then?

  2. The NDP are as unsatisfactory as the Liberals. We get no support for wanting freedom from so-called Smart meters, and they do not support the first-nations rights at Site C. We want better for our province. Next time, we will vote smarter.

  3. I’m afraid the BC NDP aren’t going to be our answer and certainly not our environments answer. I so wanted to believe they would lead with integrity……

  4. You want to talk about “sunk costs”? Then figure out the costs of a dam failure a la Mt. Polley. Figure out the Billion dollar settlement for the First Nation’s lawsuit. (Plus the legal fees).
    For goodness sake, and Rafe Mair’s, shut the god dam thing DOWN!

  5. The NDP should have canned all the BCUC appointees and the Liberal deadwood at Hydro before revisiting this matter. If they really wanted real numbers and a fair asessment.
    Let’s hope Horgan’s not just another Lyin Brian, or Crispy Clark in trousers.

  6. So, when Premier Horgan told a group of concerned citizens in the parking lot of the Holiday Inn in West Kelowna on Sunday afternoon, his concerns over the 4 billion already spent that cancelling the project would accelerate the payback of, significantly, compared to the 70 year amortisation period of the completed project cost of around 13 billion dollars, he’s mistaken.

    As it always appears to be about money, perhaps we should be talking about the violation of mandates, like the Liberal legislation to grant licenses to “independent power producers” (IPPs) coinciding with the violation of of the mandate that created BC HYDRO in the first place. That same piece of legislation also granted IPPs a guaranteed target market for the power they produce, namely BC HYDRO, legislated into a buy high, sell low situation.

    This is but one example of a breach of public trust, and that’s criminal. As such, it calls for a seizure of all that can be justified as proceeds of crime. As for Premier Horgan’s concerns about the more immediate cost of terminating Site C, he ought to rest assured that his Attorney General’s Office will get right to work on this and many more breaches of the public trust that they are all mandated to uphold.

    1. Agreed, and with regard to the criminal acts, crusty and her thugs should be in jail and the liberal party coppers emptied along with their personal assets just to pay for what you mentioned. The liberal coppers should be responsible for other appalling breeches of trust – giving water away to that disgusting trans national corporation Nestle.

Comments are closed.