Tag Archives: Site C Dam

One of two proposed loacations for Site C Dam (Damien Gillis photo)

Site C Dam: A Bad Deal for British Columbians


EDITOR’S NOTE: This letter was originally published in the Prince George Citizen, in response to a previous article on Site C Dam.

I live in the Peace Valley, upstream of the proposed Site C dam.  That has led to a lifetime interest in electricity policy.  I read with interest the recent article entitled, “Site C update: more power, more cost.” (July 27) which states, “BC ratepayers will be forking over the estimated $7.9 billion to build the Site C hydro-electric dam on the Peace River…”

Hydro customers do guarantee the corporation’s debt although very few of us give that much thought.  There’s been no need so long as the debt remained stable, was prudently managed, and publicly available.  But things have changed.  After many years of remaining stable, the debt load in the past three years has steadily climbed and those figures do not include the longterm contractual obligations for supply from BC independent power producers, which the province requires Hydro to use.  The public is refused access to those contracts.  How willing should ratepayers be to guarantee an additional $7.9 billion without having the right to scrutinize what they are already on the hook for?

The article says we need Site C because provincial demand is expected to rise 40% in 20 years.  In the past, Hydro ratepayers could – and did – use BC Utilities Commission (BCUC) hearings to hold Hydro and its government handlers to account for their claims.  But last year, the Energy Act removed Site C and ten other projects from BCUC oversight.  Now ratepayers are told they’ll pay the costs but are denied a forum to check the need for and suitability of those costs.

Last year’s Energy Act requires BC to be ‘self-sufficient’ in electricity.  All generation must occur within the province.  Hydro must be able to meet the province’s future need under “the most adverse sequence of stream flows within historical record.”  So self-sufficiency is to protect our electricity supply in times of drought.  Why, then, would we build another dam and reservoir that would be subject to the same drought we’re trying to protect ourselves from?  Surely it would make more sense to diversify our source of supply so that when droughts do occur, we have other sources (natural gas, geothermal, wind, solar) available.   

According to the article, Site C is “extremely cost-effective” at $87-95 per megawatt.  The comparable cited is $125/Megawatt for the green energy call – a most expensive source.  I’m told that firm power with delivery in 2012 was recently quoted at $27-35 on the Pacific Northwest wholesale market.  Longterm predictions are chancy but the projected $81-85 for 2030 doesn’t make Site C look shiny either.  It appears that Site C can only be called “extremely cost-effective” if cheaper sources are somehow eliminated.  The self-sufficiency requirement has created artificially expensive electricity in BC.

Ratepayers have every right to call “Foul!” when they are taken for granted in the manner we are seeing.  Every avenue they might use to protect their interests is blocked.  They are expected to swallow the rate increases and guarantee the risk, all while having no control over the policy.  That’s wrong.

Gwen Johansson has served on numerous energy-related endeavours.  She co-chaired  the Northeast Energy & Mines Advisory Committee; served on  BC Hydro’s Integrated Electricity Planning Committee; is a former BC Hydro Director and a former member of  the BC Energy Council.  She lives in the Peace Valley near Hudson’s Hope. 


Site C: Poster Project for British Columbia’s ‘Command Economy’


Editor’s Note:  Despite the criticism of BC Hydro’s big-dollar infrastructure plans by the BC Liberal Government following its handpicked panel review of the utility’s proposed rate hikes, Energy Minister Rich Coleman maintains it’s full steam ahead for the $8 Billion-plus proposed Site C Dam.

So what is a “command economy”?  Most readers will immediately think of examples like North Korea, the former USSR and China. The term is used as a put down by smug westerners dismissing socialist, centrally-planned states that generally suppress freedom and private ownership.
Well sorry to disappoint but it is not at all about politics but about control of public assets by an individual or a small group who usually have self-interest as their principal reason for all they do and say. There are many definitions of the term and here is one:
“An economy in which business activities and the allocation of resources are determined by government order rather than market forces.”

There are several places to begin but a good start is to consider the government’s directions given to establish a power generation facility on the Peace River, known as Site C Dam. The place to begin is at “Bill 17- 2010: Clean Energy Act”, followed by “The BC Energy Plan”.

By these and supporting directives our Government is giving its commands. In the words of West Coast Environmental Law, the Clean Energy Act “eliminates independent oversight of the BC Utilities Commission for the Site C dam.” This act also establishes a mandate that “BC must achieve energy self-sufficiency, that it must have an electricity surplus of 3,000 gigawatt hours by 2020, and that it will become a net exporter of electricity.” (These self-sufficiency and insurance requirements were criticized in the recent panel report on Hydro’s finances).

Now we know who is giving commands and that these commands are not based upon any credible and independent market information. To illustrate the measure of propaganda being used by our government I refer you to 1 of 7 policy action statements presented in the “2010 Energy Plan”. It is written that BC will “Maintain our competitive electricity rate advantage”.

Starting in 2006 Quebec Hydro has produced an annual report showing electricity rates for various places in North America. In 2006 BC was the place with the lowest rates for almost all customer categories. By 2010 we had slipped to being the 4th or 5th from the lowest. The Minister had to have known of this report and of the vector for BC rates before writing the above drivel in “The BC Energy Plan” he signed.
Besides giving commands to borrow, spend and build, our government has also decided it knows just how much electricity we will need in the foreseeable future, regardless of costs. In 2006 the official electricity demand “forecast” for BC customers started with a number of 58,159 GWhrs which was 14% greater than the previous year’s recorded sales. By 2011 this exaggeration had increased to a 23% differential with further widening all the way out to 2025.

Being so wrong would be of little consequence if these purposely generated errors were free of costs, but unfortunately acting on mistakes of this type become terribly expensive. Deciding to build generation plants like Site C and to contract for energy from private power companies (IPPs) – using this exaggerated outlook as the justifying rationale – only means unnecessarily high and fast rising rates. Even without the burden of Site C it now takes 60% more asset value to generate and deliver the same unit of energy to BC customers than it did just 10 years ago.

The associated debt has the same vector. It is without exaggeration that BC Hydro has presented the citizens of BC with the best possible example of how not to get efficiencies from new investments. The notion of failing to gain efficiencies from new investments is thought to be evidence of the worst feature of a “command economy” and is rightly the subject of ridicule.

In a recent public presentation, David Conway from BC Hydro proclaimed that Site C would produce electricity at about $90 per megawatt. He was also reported to have said that “BC Hydro can’t keep up with peak demand.” The reporting journalist refrained from giving the $90 figure and peak demand any context. Traditional BC Hydro generation assets produce electricity at about $35 per megawatt. During recent periods, up to and including recently, the Pacific Northwest futures trading prices per megawatt for the most expensive electricity (firm delivery) was between $35 and $45, or less than half of what he thought was so great about Site C costs.

Also missing from the article was any recognition of the declining per capita consumption of electricity in BC, a not unexpected reaction to rising rates in a quiet economy. David should have mentioned that in recent years BC Hydro has been blending IPP contracted energy with energy from legacy assets. Of the total annual amount consumed in BC, 50,000 GWhrs, about 10,000 comes from the IPP group.

This means in turn that traditional generation assets are being partially placed on standby. More importantly, this reserve of generation capacity does provide the insurance needed to meet unpredictable periods of peak demand. The further irony here is that with the introduction of the controversial new “smart metering” technology (also apparently proceeding, regardless of the recent Hydro report), BC Hydro is giving itself a new tool to manage demand peaking.
The “Command Economy” model has been the style in BC for the past decade. About $80 billion in contracts have been signed by your government outside the legislature and Site C will be an addition to this total.

A “Command Economy” is invariably one that uses the public’s assets to make very poor investments that are nowhere close to being in the public interest. That is the reality with Site C. It is not needed by any independent evidence and certainly not at the projected cost of production, nor the cost to the environment.
We in BC desperately need to recover our democracy before our government signs us into debtor’s prison.


Site C Would Destroy Prime Farmland, Fuel Fracking & Tar Sands


At a recent event in Vancouver, biologist and Peace Valley Environment
Association representative Diane Culling discussed the enormous
consequences of the proposed Site C Dam – including the flooding of
prime farmland at a time when the province faces major food security
challenges. Culling also pointed out that much of the electricity
generated from the project would go to fueling destructive shale gas
development in northeast BC, and, by extension, the Alberta Tar Sands. (3 min)


Joe Foy on Why We Don’t Need Site C Dam


At a recent event in Vancouver, the Wilderness Committee’s Joe Foy picked apart the BC Liberal Government’s faulty case for Site C Dam – discussing better alternatives to power our future needs and the enormous cost of a dam whose real purpose is to subsidize shale gas and coal mines. In his inimitable style, Joe makes it clear that the province’s ratepayers and taxpayers are being tricked into paying over $8 Billion for a dam they don’t need – with enormous impacts on the environment, our food security and First Nations’ traditional territory.


Treaty 8 First Nations chief hopes UN will intervene on Site C dam


From the Georgia Straight – May 31, 2011

by Matthew Burrows

A Fort Nelson-based leader with the Treaty 8 First Nations in
northeastern B.C. says she was given 30 minutes before the United
Nations to address “frustration” over the cumulative impacts of resource
extraction in her territory.

“Typically, when you go in front of a UN forum, you’re given three to
five minutes, and when your time’s up, they cut you off,” Treaty 8
Tribal Association tribal chief Liz Logan said. “So we were given 30
minutes, and that was great, and so we expanded on our submission and
gave them some more details, and basically requested that he [UN special
rapporteur James Anaya] intervene on our behalf and remind Canada that
they did sign on to the [UN] Declaration [on the Rights of Indigenous
Peoples], and that they need to abide by its articles and principles.”

Logan said she has no faith the government of B.C. will listen to Treaty
8 concerns, as development in and around the Peace River region, and
further north to the Horn River Basin, has continued at rapid pace
through successive provincial governments in Victoria.

“We’ve been dealing with oil and gas since the 1940s, and the eight
million cubic metres of timber that they cut annually, the four big
mines that are currently now operational—six on the block to be
approved,” Logan added. “This province’s environmental assessment
processes are flawed. In our mind, we have yet to see a project denied
or rejected. They have removed the oversight of Site C [dam] from the
B.C. Utilities Commission.”

Anaya, the UN special rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples,
had sent out a bulletin asking indigenous peoples to send in submissions
on resource extraction in their territories and the cumulative impacts
on those developments, Logan added. Now she hopes to effect change
through that channel.

“I know that they don’t have any legal force to make states do things,
but it usually is made public, and so they can publicly embarrass
governments,” Logan said. “We’re keeping our fingers crossed that they
will do something like that.”

Tonight (May 31), Logan will speak at Heritage Hall (3102 Main Street)
during a Wilderness Committee-hosted event dealing with the Site C dam.

The event comes on the second leg of a provincewide Site C speaking tour
featuring Logan, Diane Culling of Peace Valley Environment Association
and Joe Foy of the Wilderness Committee.

Read original article


Site C: Simple Questions & Answers


We at the Common Sense Canadian will be dealing with the Site C project in some depth and from the outset we would like to acknowledge the tremendous work and research done by our colleague, well known economist Erik Andersen, who cut his professional teeth dealing with government spending.
I would like to test a theory of mine, namely, that the Site C project does not pass the “simple question” test.
Energy Minister Rich Coleman has stated that we need Site C because BC Hydro says our power needs will grow by 40% over the next 20 years
Given that BC Hydro’s projections from a decade ago proved to be exaggerated by 30%, as this report by Mr. Andersen clearly demonstrates…
Simple Question: why should we trust them now when they envision our needs rising 40% in the coming years?
Simple Answer: We don’t – and in a moment I’ll ask some more questions to show why that is.
The government has maintained that the private river power scheme will look after all our needs and, indeed, the estimates given show that just two of the largest ones together would exceed Site C’s output.
SQ: Why then do we need Site C?
SA: We don’t. But what Coleman’s statement does is clearly admit that the private power schemes which are or will be destroying our rivers will not produce power for BC Hydro; they cannot do so because most of their power comes during the spring run-off (when we need it least), so they cannot provide the year round power that Site C will.
Coleman again states that this will be clean, green energy.
SQ: How can you call a project that floods 5400 hectares of farmland and drives away the wildlife “clean and green”?
SA: You cannot, anymore than you can call private projects that destroy a river’s ecology “clean and green”. This is Orwellian “Newspeak”.
Coleman says the project will cost $7.9 billion.
SQ: Who are you kidding? When was the last time a government mega-project came in anywhere near on budget?
SA: When Noah built his ark…The Highway 1/Port Mann Bridge widening project was supposed to be $1.5
billion at first, then it was over $2 billion; now it’s $3.5 billion –
and we haven’t seen the end of it. The infamous convention centre budget doubled to nearly a billion dollars by its completion. Site C’s budget, meanwhile, just shot
up from $6 billion to $8 billion over the past year!
Given that the government has forced BC Hydro to make unconscionable, cozy contracts with private power producers (IPPs) which will now cost over the next 20-40 years some $50 billion…
SQ: Where is the money for Site C coming from?
SA: Surely there is no need to say out of the wallets of BC ratepayers and taxpayers.
Coleman says that Site C will produce electricity at between $87 and $95 per MWh – “compared to other resources at $129″
SQ: Mr. Coleman, do you realize that you have just admitted that IPPs are charging BC Hydro, on a take or pay basis, triple or more the market price and 10 times + what Hydro can make it for?
SA: You have proved, through your own words, what the Common Sense Canadian has been saying all along, and you have clearly admitted that your government has been lying through its teeth from the beginning! What does this say about your government’s honesty?
Coleman has said he’s thoroughly reviewing Hydro’s latest request for a rate increase.
SQ: How the hell do you have the nerve to utter this rot when you know that huge increases must come not only from, now, Site C, but also to cover the $50+ BILLION going to IPPS?
SA: That statement can only be made if you’re lying or an incompetent fool! Or both.
Coleman says that BC Hydro will hold the “required independent environmental assessment process” which will provide opportunities for public input.
SQ: Will these meetings permit people to object to the project itself? To demand evidence supporting the need for the project? And who chairs these independent meetings?
SA: Based upon past experience the assessment process will be chaired by a firm supporter of the project and any questions raised as to the need for the project will be ruled “out of order”.
Assuming that BC Hydro, being the astute business persons they are, will have big, energy requiring customers in mind…
SQ: How much of this electricity will be going to power coal mines, shale gas extraction and the Tar Sands? And will regular residential and business ratepayers be subsidizing this industrial power the way we do now – to the tune of a 50% + discount on what we all pay?
SA: That’s precisely what will happen and the government and BC Hydro will, using our dollars, power production of the dirtiest corporations on the face of this planet.
These are some of the areas of this project Damien and I will be canvassing.
What we can confidently say is that Mr. Coleman has, I’m sure unwittingly, demonstrated just what a royal screwing British Columbians are taking from the IPP contracts and that the Common Sense Canadian, in exposing the deceit and cynicism of this government, has been thoroughly vindicated. Now they want us to help them compound their sins!
Incompetent governments are usually run by honest people who are stupid; with this government we not only have incompetence but corruption as well.


Site C dam “not required”, NDP leadership hopeful John Horgan says


From Straight.com – Jan 18, 2011

by Matthew Burrows

The B.C. NDP’s only Vancouver Island–based leadership candidate has said he believes the proposed Site C hydroelectric dam is unnecessary at this point in time.

“Each pulp mill or sawmill that shuts down, that’s more power that’s available to B.C. Hydro through the existing supply,” John Horgan, long-time NDP energy critic, told the Straight
by phone today (January 18). “Housing starts have not been what they
were projected to be in 2005-2006, so residential demand is not growing
at the rate that B.C. Hydro projected. So my view is that Site C is not
required at this time, and there are other potentially lower-cost,
best-use options available to the corporation.”

In a wide-ranging interview, Horgan confirmed the NDP still supports a moratorium on any new run-of-river power projects.
If the NDP forms government, it would review the power-purchase
agreements made by B.C. Hydro and private power producers in order to
ensure they are in the “public interest”, according to him.

“If it’s determined that they are not in the public interest, after the
light of day has been shone upon them, then we would take action to
rectify that. What that action is would depend on what the deficiencies
are,” Horgan said.

Read full article


Audio: Damien Gillis discusses Site C Dam, Victoria Rally on CFRO 102.7


Listen to this ten minute discussion on Wake Up with Co-op re: the renewed Site C Dam
proposal and a recent rally in Victoria to voice opposition to the plan. This past
Sunday, First Nations, ranchers, conservationists, and citizens from the Peace River
region and around BC paddled to the Legislature to deliver their message to the
premier and public. They are concerned Site C will unnecessarily flood important
farmland, ecosystems, and traditional aboriginal territories at great cost to the
public and BC Hydro ratepayers – all to subsidize the Tar Sands and resource mining
for multi-national corporations, the United States, and Asia.


Site C is a cataclysmic mistake


Site C is a cataclysmic mistake not only in view of our need for farmland in the coming convergence of climate change and peak oil in the next 10 to 30 years. It is wasteful in every other way—for the usual political reasons of corporate profit.

Energy efficiency is the first solution to our energy needs. Worldwide, we waste more than half of the electricity we generate (details at Rocky Mountain Institute: rmi.com.) A study carried out by a coalition of community organizations in co-operation with BC Hydro in the late 80’s found a conservative estimate of 44% wasted in BC. The thousands of residential and commercial construction projects alone, if built to energy efficiency standards, would save untold amounts of future demand. Converting residential, commercial and industrial operations, including BC Hydro, to energy efficiency will create thousands of new jobs, businesses, and industries, and stimulate a sustainable economy.

Continue reading Site C is a cataclysmic mistake

The Peace River Valley

Site ‘C’ and Other Bad Ideas for BC


Site “C” is a bad idea from every point of view.

Let’s first consider if it’s necessary for BC needs. The short answer is that it isn’t, for out of the mouth of BC Hydro we know that with a modicum of conservation, upgrading existing dams, putting generators on flood control dams and taking back – under the Columbia River Treaty – the power we export under that agreement, our needs as far as we can see are taken care of.

Premier Campbell says that there are many “hurdles” to clear, meaning, one assumes, environmental hearings. If we believe that, like Charlie Brown, we believe that Lucy won’t pull the ball away at the last second. There are, you see – two flaws in this statement: first, environmental assessment procedures don’t deal with the question as to whether we want the dam in the first pace; and second, no matter what the reports are, the government can and does what it pleases. If Campbell wants this dam, he’ll have it whether we need it or not – whether we want it or not.

When was the last time a government turned back a project it wanted because an environmental panel didn’t like it?

Will these panels, federal and provincial, consider the loss of 5,340 hectares of land, much of it farmland? Whether or not they consider it, it won’t matter since the Premier knows about that now and by proceeding with the passage has written off all that land.

He’s also written off the animal world including caribou which graze in this area. If we know one thing about Campbell, he doesn’t give a fiddler’s fart about animals, be they be salmon destroyed by fish farms, fish and other wildlife dependent on rivers he’s given away to large offshore companies, nor about the birds that need Burn’s bog for nesting or as a transitional stop while migrating. He’s appointed Environment Ministers who get their jollies by kissing his backside as he ravages the province with their unneeded lickspittle support.

This important question remains unanswered: with all this private power the Premier is so proud of coming from the rivers he’s given away to the likes of Warren Buffett and GE, why aren’t we using that instead of building Site “C” – after all, their supporters prattle on about looking after 500,000 homes here, 500,000 homes there, and 500,000 homes somewhere else?

This is the only honest answer the Premier could give: because private power companies can’t produce energy in the winter when the rivers are so low and when BC Hydro might need it. (Don’t expect that reply because, as we know, honesty is not Campbell’s strong suit).

We must all get this through our collective skulls, folks – Premier Gordon Campbell doesn’t care for the environment other than when it can serve foreign hunters shooting Grizzly Bears, allow Norwegian companies to ravage our waters with fish farms, serve offshore companies he can give our rivers to, or land for his developer friends.

Another product of Campbell’s reckless energy plan is that the cost of energy will skyrocket (and is already doing so) – which will hurt citizens through their power bills and through the loss of jobs, as already hard-hit industries see their energy costs go through the roof (this according to the Joint Industry Electrical Steering Committee that represents large industrial power users). No doubt many are too young to remember WAC Bennett but it was he who developed the “Two Rivers” policy – the Columbia and the Peace – which would make BC self sufficient in energy. We paid a huge environmental price for this but we got what Bennett wanted – the right to charge what we please for power irrespective of what others had to pay.

To Bennett energy pricing should be a matter of government policy, which is to say public policy, so that business could have a lighter burden and British Columbians could pay reasonable prices because the construction costs were long behind us.

This was part of Bennett’s overall plan that included BC Ferries and BC Rail. He knew that private ferry companies and private rail companies couldn’t care less about services for people or creating an incentive for development. In that last regard, much of British Columbia wants tourism very badly because of the near collapse of the lumber industry. Does anyone think for a moment that CN will put in new lines and adjust prices to help these communities?

During the election last May, I was often asked how I could support the NDP given my background as a Socred. The answer was simple.

“Suppose”, I would say, “we have an NDP government that makes a balls up in fiscal management (although how they could do worse than Campbell I don’t know) that can be fixed by another government”.

However, once you lose your rivers and your fish, they’re gone forever!

We didn’t think about that last May and what Damien Gillis, Tom Rankin and I – none of us even remotely interested in socialism – were talking about has come true.

We must start now to fight this regime every way we can, short of violence, to get our province back. And we can start by joining Alexandra Morton in her trek from Sointula to Victoria bringing the protest against fish farming to Campbell & Co with a huge rally at the Legislature Buildings on May 8th – further details at SalmonAreSacred.org.