BC Hydro says halting Site C would cost taxpayers $500 million? Not building it at all will save us over $8 billion dollars.

Sometimes, one woman can only take so much. And when I saw yet another headline last night blaring: 

“BC Hydro says halting Site C would cost $500 million”

I really and truly, had enough.

“A stop-work order for the Site C dam will cause “extreme prejudice” to BC Hydro at a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars and a one-year delay in the construction schedule, the utility’s lawyer says.

Mark Andrews told a B.C. Supreme Court judge that critical milestones will not be met if an injunction is granted to a pair of First Nations.

“This injunction is going to drive a truck into the schedule of the project at this stage in particular,” Andrews said Wednesday.

The West Moberly and Prophet River First Nations are challenging the nearly $9-billion project by arguing they were not properly consulted before permits were granted for Site C, the third dam on the Peace River.

The Treaty 8 Tribal Alliance members say they will suffer “irreparable harm” if BC Hydro is allowed to start clearing thousands of hectares of old-growth forest.

They’ve asked a judge to block work authorized by specific permits.”


“The project is in the public interest because the dam’s power will flow to British Columbians, he said.

BC Hydro has said the dam is expected increase its energy supply by eight per cent, enough to generate electricity for about 450,000 homes annually.”

This kind of stuff makes my blood boil. Let me tell you why.

Site C is a project that has been on the books for longer than many British Columbians will remember. Over the years ,the reasons for it have changed a few times in order to try and justify the project. Then Premier Clark picked it up and said  LNG plants will need the energy, so we must build Site C.

However when it was revealed that LNG plants could burn their own gas to generate power – Clark admitted to Bloomberg Site C was not needed to power up those LNG plants we still don’t have – the reason for building it changed again. Now, Clark said, British Columbians will need that clean energy! We must build Site C!

It’s also been said we could sell the energy elsewhere… but read on.

What it comes down to, is that we still don’t need the electricity from that project,and there are still very serious questions  about the rationale and the costs associated with it.

Site C was already turned down once by the BC Utilities Commission in the eighties because it simply wasn’t needed.

Not surprisingly, last year the  federal-provincial joint review panel recommended  that the B.C.  government send the project to the B.C. Utilities Commission for review on the economics and cost of the project. That is what the BC Utilities Commission exists for. It reviews all the evidence provided and determines if it is accurate and if the benefits outweigh the negatives.

But no, the province  did not, and will not send the project to the BC Utilities Commission and actually exempted it when they passed the Clean Energy Act in 2010. The province knows full well that there stands a very strong likelihood the BC Utilities Commission would say the project still isn’t needed at this point in time, or that the costs associated with it outweigh any rationale for building it.

The BC Utilities Commission might also ask the province why  it still hasn’t investigated alternatives to the dam as was recommended the last time this project went before them.

We don’t need Site C, when BC Hydro has a capacity to install another unit at the Revelstoke dam right now. https://www.bchydro.com/energy-in-bc/projects/revelstoke-unit-6.html

The provincial government has ignored not only the federal-provincial review panel, but politicians,industry experts and the people whose homes and land will be flooded if the project proceeds.

Each of you should be asking yourselves why this project is being pushed through without this review being done.

This is why the BC Utilities Commission exists!!  There is so much concern over this project that now the BC Auditor General will be conducting a review “to investigate “whether BC Hydro’s recommendation and government’s decision to build Site C was supported by sufficient information and analysis to demonstrate that it would meet government’s economic, social and environmental goals.”

In an exclusive interview earlier this year, the chair of the review panel had this to say:

“In his first interview on the Site C dam, the chair of the federal-provincial panel appointed to review Canada’s largest current infrastructure project said the B.C.government was unwise to green-light the project without a review by the B.C.Utilities Commission and would have been better off to delay the decision by a few years.

There’s a whole bunch of unanswered questions, some of which would be markedly advanced by waiting three or four years,” Harry Swain told DeSmog Canada. “And you’d still be within the period of time, even by Hydro’s bullish forecasts, when you’re going to need the juice.”


You shouldn’t take decisions before you need to,” Swain said. “That means you’ll have much more information when you finally have to take a decision. Building electricity facilities in advance of need only costs money.”

The panel’s report predicted that in the first four years of production, the Site C dam would lose at least $800 million because BC Hydro would generate more power than the province needs at a cost of $100 per megawatt hour — when the market price for that power is currently $30 per megawatt hour.

Wisdom would have been waiting for two, three, four years to see whether the projections they were making had any basis in fact,” Swain said. “And they would have been able to make a better-informed decision and not necessarily a more expensive one.”

In its report, the panel wrote that it couldn’t conclude that the power from Site C was needed on the schedule presented, adding: “Justification must rest on an unambiguous need for the power and analyses showing its financial costs being sufficiently attractive as to make tolerable the bearing of substantial environmental, social and other costs.”

Some of the questions that still need to be answered, according to Swain, include the real cost and availability of alternatives, how B.C. should use its Columbia River rights, how British Columbians will react to increased electricity prices (which could decrease demand) and how the province’s liquefied natural gas industry will develop.”

That interview is a must read and you can read part 1 here: http://www.desmog.ca/2015/03/10/exclusive-b-c-government-should-have-deferred-site-c-dam-decision-chair-joint-review-panel

And part 2 here: http://www.desmog.ca/2015/03/11/dereliction-duty-chair-site-c-panel-b-c-s-failure-investigate-alternatives-mega-dam

This matters.

Homes are going to be flooded,some that have been farmed and owned by three generations of the same family.They are harvesting  musk melons right now – this is fertile land, ready for crops and in this day and age the government should be promoting it, not trying to flood it.

The valley and river is also used by many including Treaty 8 First Nations, for hunting and fishing – it is their land, through history and through treaty rights.  It has archaeological significance. Even the BC government Parks has designated the Peace River as one of its Heritage Rivers,extensively sharing how unique and diverse the river below the other two dams really is: http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/bcparks/heritage_rivers_program/bc_rivers/peace_river.html

site C heritage river

It really matters that when the province or a crown corporation undertakes any big project, they ensure every check and balance is done and that has not been the case with Site C. And while this time it is Site C being rammed through, next time it might be a project that impacts your life more directly.

So, when I see news reports with BC Hydro warning that costs will increase by $500 million if work is halted, I see a scare tactic designed to sway the public into pressing for this project to move ahead.

What should be said is that not building it will save taxpayers far more than $8.5 billion dollar cost of construction… but also the  potential yearly loss of $800 million because the cost to produce the energy is more than current rates. Our hydro bills would likely go up.

It’s just wrong on so many levels. I urge everyone to write the premier and every Liberal MLA and demand this project be put before the BC Utilities Commission for the full review it should have had in the first place.

56 thoughts on “BC Hydro says halting Site C would cost taxpayers $500 million? Not building it at all will save us over $8 billion dollars.

        1. now that sounds like the best idea I’ve heard in years! John, you ought to run for office. YOu make so much more sense than the queen of photo ops.


        2. Touché John in this day and age why aren’t the First Nations up and arms about raw sewage into the oceans from Victoria!!!!! And everyone else for that matter!!! Montreal does it once and we have it all over national television.


  1. Any decision made by this government makes you wonder just who the Lieberals are trying to reward. They had to have known that there would be challenges by First Nations groups, and others. The fact that they have let contracts already, and will be on the hook for millions when they are sued for breach should be of no surprise to us. That has been a constant over the years of this government.


  2. I would be very happy to pay to save farmland and heritage sites! Would be even happier if they would take the $8B and spend it on renewable energy: sun, wind, tide.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s a good point made in one of the articles I linked to that we are one of the only countries on the Pacific Rim not using geothermal….


  3. True cost to build is well beyond the 8+ billion usually stated. Historically project of this nature has over-runs in 50% range. On top of that, if financed with P3 (not sure if it is or not) that will take
    the cost to high teens of billions of dollars. One pundit suggested that this dam’s output would be needed for a few hours per YEAR. Thank you Christy!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Notice how the market rate for export electricity is determined by the “market” while the domestic rate is determined by BC Hydro so us customers (who own BC Hydro) must pay more to make up the loss incurred on the export market. Why aren’t we paying the market rate then? We will see the same with LFG, give away the gas to foreigners while the domestic price goes up because of the “supply and demand” market dictates it. Huh? Economists like Harper running the country are like the inmates running the asylum. I need more coffee!!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Who is “Swain” and what are his credentials for us to hang on his every word. There are more critics than we need and they seem to mount in ever increasing numbers when the change in direction is large.
    Are we upset about change. Will they be upset when we lose our downstream benefits that the USA is claiming is their right? Will they support being without inadequate electricity as our numbers increase or as our economy grows? Or will they say, wow, we sure are happy we don’t have to invest in more infrastructure. Site C in hindsight was a bargain. WAC Bennett built hydro power when it was not needed and it still there for us to use.
    Wind and Tidal will NEVER be consistent in delivering power at peak times and they too have their critics …see how many birds are being killed by wind farms. Will the same happen to fish and coastal wildlife? We have those who want nothing to do with developing thermal power … because it is harmful to the environment or ????
    There is a yin and a yang to everything in life.
    There are no absolute answers.
    We elected people to keep this Province and people need jobs. Let’s get do their jobs. Time for crying is well past.


  6. Thanks for this piece, Laila. The more exposure, the better.

    Hydro has an option for a sixth generator at the already-built-and-flooded Revelstoke Dam. The elevation drop and water flow must be far better at Revelstoke, because that ONE generator could produce 1/2 of what the whole Site C would produce.

    Cost of the Revelstoke generator: $420 million — or about 1/10th the cost per megawatt, compared to Site C. Revelstoke is about half the distance to Vancouver, as well, so less power is lost in transmission.

    This is akin to Christy Clark requiring BC drivers to pay $10.00 per litre for gasoline, when we should be paying $1.00. It’s ridiculous!

    Norm Farrell has more on this at: http://northerninsights.blogspot.ca/2014/12/buy-high-sell-low-make-up-losses-with.html

    I’ll be sending a copy of this to my MLA and Bill Bennett.


    1. Statistically BC Hydro has fewer reservoirs generating electricity than the Independent Power Producers, but, just think of the potential if BC Hydro were to encourage, through legislation, the training of beavers to incorporate turbines into their dams.

      BC Hydro’s clear cut logging for Site C requires the immediate killing of beavers, their dams, their way of life:
      Multi Site Wildlife Act Application beaver lodge den removal construction 2014 10 24


  7. Thank Gordon Campbell for denuding the B.C. Utilities Commission.
    In my personnel opinion Campbell now Christy Clark are killing this province.
    He went even further and shut down Burrard Thermal Generating plant.
    Then Campbell signed unbreakable long term hidden contracts with P3 Companies to build a number of small elect.power plants,where the BC consumers are now paying up to 30% more in electrical rates,in comparison to current lower BC Hydro rates.
    Blame Campbell for the screwing of the BC consumer in electrical rates,then blame Christy Clarke with her hidden agenda of pushing through the Site C Dam.(all originally I believe was Gordon Campbell’s hidden agenda)


  8. Additionally paying $500,000 as a compensation for shutting down Site C would be cheaper in the long run for BC Consumers.
    Based on experts in the electrical field who have stated that hydro rates would go up exponentially
    and needlessly.

    It is inevitable that over the term of Site Construction the estimated cost will be over 8.75 billion plus,even when BC does not need the electrical power all based on respective highly regarded experts in the field of electrical power cost/generation.

    It bears asking the question by BC Taxpayers just what in the hell is Premier Christy Clark’s hidden agenda ?


  9. The government okay Site C in complete understanding that it would face court challenges from First Nations. They are idiots to have done this. And now the “you naughty kittens” attitude toward dissenters, and the threat of $500 million penalty is beyond offensive! This is what you get when you let the high school mean girl be premier.


  10. I say build it and build it now. The sooner the better. I am tired of reading again and again about another “Chief” pulling down $270 k a year tax free = to $400 k along with more cash being pulled in by family members. Many of the folks on the res. are not working but still getting money from hard working people like me. We are going to need more and more power and these projects take a long time to build. We can’t continue to let a particular segment of society stand in the way of every project that comes down the pike. I say get on with it!


    1. Did you even read this post?

      Because if you did, you would see that even if you completely left any First Nations considerations and treaties out of it, the project on it’s own is highly questionable. Why did the province exempt it? Why haven’t they considered alternatives,one of which has been posted here by a reader? Why has the province consistently ignored recommendations to send this to the BC Utilities Commission?

      Nice attempt at deflection from the real issue though.


    2. “We are going to need more and more power”

      This is the hoax that we keep hearing, that the economy has to grow, every year, infinitely.
      Why assume endless growth, on a finite planet?


    3. What a crass, racist and utterly inaccurate statement. You ought to be ashamed. There are hundreds of compelling reasons not to build this dam, ignoring treaty 8 is just one of them. As stewards of the land and keepers of the environment, these brave souls have much at risk if this dam is built. To racially slur members of our First Nations is reprehensible.


  11. Totally not necessary. Agree with Hugh, this is a hoax we keep hearing about. Site C is not for the consumption of British Columbians. Christy and Co., enough of your madness.


    1. I really have no problem with immigrants. Our country needs ’em. And skilled ones are even better than new members for the Rob Ford posse. But this newcomer ‘program’ signifies something else – it seems to indicate a done deal on issues we (the people) believe are still in the planning stage. Why do we need electricians now for a dam that has yet to be decided on? Why do we need welders for a pipeline that seems to be stalled? Is this program just another cynical step in the direction of what is seeming to be a fait accompli by Clark and Harper? Are the rubber stamps already at work? Are we ‘going through the process’ for no purpose? We may not have a voice on anything but we will be able to speak in unison on October 19. Please use it to send Harper a message.


      1. I have no issues with immigrants at all… I know many skilled and professional immigrants who cannot work in Canada because of the difficulty in aligning the degrees and work experience overseas with Canadian professional requirements.

        I do however have an issue with government announcements that are so vague that they seem to be open to rife misuse, a la the temporary foreign workers program…?

        And where are all the workers who left BC for Alberta, who were recently laid off and came back home? Hmm?


  12. If BC Hydro needs more power, why not ramp up Burrard Thermal?

    Oh, no, because BT emits CO2 because it burns lots of natural gas.

    But so would exporting LNG.


  13. I believe the main problem we have here is the burning of fossil fuels. If we are going to stop using gasoline and diesel to run cars then we have to turn to electricity. If everyone used electricity the way people who are already “off grid” use it, we wouldn’t need another dam, however, until the cost of Hydro triples, that won’t happen. The unfortunate part about living off grid is that it is hard to do without having another form of energy to heat homes, cook and have hot water in the winter. You have to have oil, wood, natural gas to do that, unless you are into geothermal.


    1. I live OTG and you are right; can’t be done without some fossil fuels. The chainsaw, for example. But I also have lived this entire summer (since May) without using the genset. ALL solar. Everything but chainsaw and boat. Oooops…on-demand hot water, too (but that could have been electrical). If everyone in BC added a few panels to their roof and a few batteries to their basement, site C would not be required (may wish to wait for the ‘better battery’ to be invented, tho).


      1. Christy could hire students in the summer to visit homes and install 10 free LED replacement lights, which work great and burn 7 or 8 times LESS energy than equivalent incandescent bulbs. Solar panels are a good idea — but reducing energy demand with LED light is easy and involves no alterations to a home.

        Look out for LED bulbs that can’t be used in closed light fixtures, though. I got burned on that one X4. I since have bought liquid-filled bulbs that work very well in closed fixtures.


  14. One should think that NOT reviewing Site C at the BC Utilities Commission would, all other things considered, be reason enough to get an injunction. The question is whether this proposal is in the best interests of the province, the citizens of which are also BC Hydro customers.

    The BC Liberals seem to think an advantage for their insider friends exists in some kind of weird interpretation of legal precedent: allowing Independent Power Producers to parasitize the public hydro corp means BC citizens have forfeited their interest in BC Hydro, and have also authorized BC Liberal cronies to dip into their pockets (increased consumer rates) for no other reason than to affect a massive breach of public trust—which voters have “approved” via the ballot box. No shit—that’s how neo-rightists think.

    BC Liberals have already had the nerve to assign themselves and their cronies a tidy parasite premium by way of Site C’s staggering price tag. It is simply too frightful to let these social saboteurs manage any public money, let alone eight billion dollars— itself subject of course to “inflation.”

    This needs to be sent to court.


  15. More than electricity, we need FOOD.

    Climate change, extended repeating droughts and the exhausting of aquifers in the USA, from where we now get a large part of our food supply year round, are going to mean tightening of supply and fast rising prices. We could see doubling of food prices over the next five years, certainly vegetables and meat. The Peace Valley is already productive agricultural land and, with rising temperatures and longer growing seasons, will become more so. Canada has the potential to become a major supplier of food for export with the reduction of growing capacity in the USA and other countries. The Peace Valley has more potential future value kept as is than drowning it for unneeded hydro power at a cost of billions of dollars.


  16. Local governments in B.C. will vote this September on whether to lobby the province for further review the Site C dam.

    A resolution submitted by the city of Victoria to the Union of B.C. Municipalities asks the local government group to advocate for a review of the dam by the B.C. Utilities Commission.

    Victoria specifically wants the commission to review the dam’s “potential impact on B.C. Hydro ratepayers and provincial taxpayers.”

    Also of concern are potential impacts on agriculture, the environment, and aboriginal and municipal interests.

    Both Hudson’s Hope and the Peace River Regional District have requested the province subject the dam to a “proper review” before “any construction or development activities proceed.” Construction officially began in late July.

    Delegates will vote on the Site C resolution during the UBCM’s annual meeting Sept. 23-25. – See more at: http://www.timescolonist.com/news/b-c/city-of-victoria-pushes-for-site-c-delay-1.2038500#sthash.rQZ8Z5Qe.dpuf


    1. So… if you are opposed to this project and want to see the BCUC be allowed to do the job it was mandated to do, contact not only our government, but also your local mayor and councils. Because their input will matter!


  17. Oh dear, oh dear. Some of us seem to want to avoid reality.
    BC Hydro and the BC government have been in search of a need to build Site C for several decades and continue the fruitless search, because in the real world there is no demonstrable need, now or in the future.
    In fiscal 2015 BC Hydro reported domestic sales of 51,213 GWhrs which is no more than reported 8-10 years ago. So when the sales numbers fail to validate the spin the guessers immediately turn to claims population growth. In fact the population growth in the last part of the last century would be supportive but since the turn of the century annual population growth is barely 1% which is the value Moodys is currently using for BC.

    It is instructive to look at the scale of BC Hydro forecast errors to then understand why the Site C issue is not being put in front of the BCUC.

    In F 2006 the BC Hdyro forecast showed a demand for F 2012 of 57,201 GWhrs and by F 2018 63,865 GWhrs. That means that in 2006 BC Hydro made a forecasting error of about 10,000 GWhrs or more than twice the projected rate of generation for Site C. In dollar terms that is about a $20 billion mistake.

    Moving up to F 2011 (four years ago) BC Hydro made a forecast of domestic demand , 67,457 GWhrs by F 2017. That is about a 15,000 GWhrs error.

    THe wheels are coming off the global economy and there are people in BC who are reluctant to connect the dots. Nearly 2 years ago Moodys gave the BC government notice of a possible credit downgrade. One of the few conditions mentioned was that the BC government become more frugal. Building Site C is the sure fire way to trigger a credit downgrade which will cost us all a lot more than $9 billion.


  18. queen of the photo ops needed a photo op and all of those who got contracts needed contracts. works for them, not for the rest of us. Even if it cost the province $500 M to stop the dam it will save us a dam site more of money than wasting $8B on a dam which will flood land which ought to be left alone. In an ever crowding world, space is needed on this earth.

    if people think the influx of refugees in Europe is going to stop at Europe give it another think. We will need space, land, and water. What that dam is supposed to be used for heavens knows. Iran is getting back into the game of oil and there is enough gas elsewhere that they don’t need ours.

    The dam is a waste of money and the environment.


  19. And to continue from the article …
    In Eliesen’s words, “Whether it’s mining or proposed LNG plants or anything of that nature … they’re all subsidized by other hydro ratepayers. Those heavy power users do not pay the true cost. They are not paying their fair share.”


  20. Look, I’m old and feeble and don’t know how long I can contribute to this senseless diatribe (I just solved the refugee problem over at H.O.’s site by the way). With the exception of G. Barry Stewart you all natter on about the senselessness of this project. You’re preaching to the converted!
    Isn’t there one amongst us that can offer a sensible solution that will put an end to this insanity? Perhaps the UBCM will offer a solution? I think BCUC could put an end to it. Its much the same with the LNG situation. No matter how you slice it, there is no market for our price cost gas, even w/o factoring in the environmental costs. Why not admit to defeat and get on with Plan B? (because there IS no Plan B!)
    Chrispy may have a twelve year jump on a kindergartener, but you’d never know it by the way she acts!


  21. Since when could you get an injunction because otherwise your plans would be upset? In my legal days it was to stop something illegal which, of course, begs the question!


  22. And of course, more issues with the site. This government has no clue what its doing. Many rely on moose to fill their freezers over winter. Huge issue for Mike Bernier…

    Hey I have an idea… halt the project, let the BC Utilities Commission review it, like it should have.
    It’s tragic the NDP didn’t take a stance on this when it was debated in the legislature this fall, instead of waiting until their party convention last weekend which most British Columbians paid zero attention to…


  23. My understanding was that BC Hydro has plenty of power for us but will be selling it to the USA–likely California who are always running low on power. So British Columbians bankroll the project, BC Hydro scrapes up and destroys fertile land, homes for people and animals, so Americans can run their air conditioners at a price WAY cheaper than we pay here. Site C is a bad idea all around and should be investigated. Now that we have a half-decent federal government (tanker moratorium back in place–yay!) we can turn attention to what this provincial gov’t is doing to ruin, arguably, Canada’s most beautiful and natural province, based on manipulative information and lies about economic prosperity. We should be developing renewable resources, building off-grid structures. But BC Hydro and its backers wouldn’t like that.


  24. […] BC Hydro says halting Site C would cost taxpayers $500 million? Not building it at all will save us … 50 comments – we didn’t need Site C years ago and we don’t need it now. So why is it being pushed through despite not having been reviewed by the BC Utilities Commission? Because what Clark wants, Clark gets. Even if it makes no economic or environmental sense. […]


  25. How about setting up an online petition Laila? Or a link to an existing one? Or a link to all the BC MLAs to make it easier to email them?

    Bet you’d get thousands and thousands of signatures.


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