Site C: “Hold the vision. Trust the process.”
I’ve been relatively quiet on Site C since the BCUC review started, because for once there has been no need to keep tweeting and writing incessantly to keep it in the public eye as there was, prior to the election – the review itself has been generating enough interest on its own.
The discussion for the last few weeks has centered around the two reports Deloitte produced for the BC Utilities Commission. For all intents and purposes, they are the first truly independent reports on Site C. While the results have supporters of the project clearly rattled, opponents and critics ( including myself) have been overjoyed to see the stark headlines validating so many of the concerns we have written about.
Sarah Cox has an excellent report on this here:https://www.desmog.ca/2017/09/09/site-c-dam-costs-could-escalate-40-says-auditor-s-report
The Tyee has it covered here: https://thetyee.ca/News/2017/09/13/Utilities-Commission-Warned-Site-C-Cost-Overruns-Delays/
And even Vaughn Palmer did a rather scathing review here: http://vancouversun.com/opinion/columnists/vaughn-palmer-review-raises-doubts-about-site-cs-costs-schedule
I encourage you to read them, as all are good backgrounders & context moving forward to the long awaited BCUC initial report on their review of Site C.
This is the full report for your reading pleasure: http://www.carpediemprojects.ca/sitecinquiry-test/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/DOC_90185_A-13_Preliminary-Report.pdf
I’m warning you now, this post is a bit long, because there is a lot to cover. The initial bcuc review raised even more questions about site c so many and like Muskrat Falls, there is growing uncertainty on the numbers used by BC Hydro. Bob Mackin quickly got to the heart of it last night:
And there is more, from page 9:
“As for a final cost, Deloitte has identified scenarios in which the Project could be up to 50 percent over budget.
The Panel is seeking more information from BC Hydro to assess the budget impact of current risks, such as the main civil works delays and claims. In addition, BC Hydro under-estimated the cost of the winning bid for the main civil works contract. Should it have under-estimated the cost of the two other major contracts still to be
awarded, for the generator station and spillway and for transmission, there may not be sufficient budget contingency remaining.”
BC Hydro underestimates the cost of the winning bid? You don’t say… ( cough…Muskrat Falls… cough.. told you so )
The BCUC also questions extensively the models and calculations used with respect to BC Hydros load forecasts for future energy consumption, the difference in views on price elasticity and future rate increases, the demand for any future surplus energy, and also takes exception to BC Hydros assessment on alternative energy sources:
Section 3(b)(iv) of the OIC asks:
Given the energy objectives set out in the Clean Energy Act, what, if any, other portfolio of commercially feasible generating projects and demand-side management initiatives could provide similar benefits (including firming; shaping; storage; grid reliability; and maintenance or reduction of 2016/17 greenhouse gas emission levels) to ratepayers at similar or lower unit energy cost as the Site C project?
BC Hydro presented the result of its screening analysis which in its view demonstrated that biomass, geothermal and battery storage were unsuitable candidates for the alternative portfolio. In addition, a number of alternative sources of generation and capacity have been suggested by Deloitte and other parties, along with different
perspectives of the cost and availability of alternative energy sources. The Panel reviews the submissions and makes the following general findings concerning alternative energy sources:
1. Biomass, geothermal, solar and battery storage are potential candidates for alternative generation and should be considered by BC Hydro.
2. Costs modelled by BC Hydro for wind may overstate the amount of decrease in capital costs expected over the next 20 years.
The BC Utilities Commission has asked for responses to their very critical questions by October 4th, and the final report will be delivered November 1st of this year 2017. At that point the NDP cabinet will review it & other considerations before deciding the fate of the project.
Now I want to talk about a few other Site C related issues I think need to be addressed.
Throughout the last two years that I have been covering site C -at times breaking stories on issues and events not reported elsewhere- I’ve also done a lot of research into alternative energy and other energy projects. In fact that’s how I first discovered the disaster of Muskrat Falls, writing about it in early 2016 making the comparison and warning of the need for a bcuc review for Site C: https://lailayuile.com/2016/02/08/muskrat-falls-fiasco-provides-example-for-british-columbians-of-potential-future-of-site-c-why-premier-clark-must-send-project-to-bc-utilities-commission-independent-review/
When Nalcor admitted later in 2016 they had been wrong about their forecasts, their estimates and Muskrat Falls was a mistake, I again reinforced the need to have our regulator review Site C. https://lailayuile.com/2016/06/24/shocking-admission-from-nalcor-energy-ceo-serves-as-chilling-warning-to-bc-government-that-exempted-site-c-project-from-independent-review-of-bcuc/
As the opposition to Site C has grown from a few ‘rag-tag forces of No’ to thousands of concerned British Columbians, so have the justifications for this project been changed often in response.
It started out as a way to power all the LNG plants Clark thought she would get built. After she admitted it to an American paper that wasn’t actually true ( cheaper for them to burn their own gas to power plants) it became about powering Alberta – also not happening thanks to stalemate over Kinder Morgan. Then it became about jobs, but the reality is that you can’t justify creating billions in debt *just* for temporary jobs.
And now, the only argument supporters of the project have left is climate change. “But the Paris Agreement, we need to build this dam to fight climate change!”.
Site C was never about climate change, it was a legacy project that Clark wanted to lay claim to. Clark announced Site C was going to be built in 2014. The Paris Accord happened just last year. So now it’s time to talk about my views on this, because I have been one of the loudest and persistent critics and it is a serious issue.
Without a doubt, you can’t see the weather extremes occurring around the world with increasing frequency and deny something is happening. History shows the earth has experienced great shifts in climate previously and back then, we didn’t have a population of humans doing all sorts of nasty stuff across the globe. And to be fair we haven’t been kind to the earth that supports our very existence. Neil deGrasse Tyson just shocked many with his dire view on it all : http://www.cnn.com/2017/09/17/us/neil-degrasse-tyson-on-climate-change-cnntv/index.html?sr=twCNN091717neil-degrasse-tyson-on-climate-change-cnntv0558PMVODtop
And so for many years the innovators and change-makers among us-some mocked for their ideas like those who once had a dream of flying machines-have advanced technologies and forced changes in public attitudes that help us reduce our impact on this planet.
The results are astounding and they keep coming faster as we push for greater technological advancements in every sector, from electric vehicles to alternative energies to clothing and food production in greenhouses. But it’s not just the move away from more harmful fossil fuels that’s amazing… it’s the way innovation is reducing the amount of electricity we actually use in BC, even as more items become electrified and our population has grown!
I just finished replacing the last of my light bulbs with LED’s, a move from 60 watts to 8 watts. It took a bit to phase them out because they are more costly initially, but when I think of my winter heating bill ( electric heat only here) every penny to be saved matters.
The newer, bigger washing machine here uses far less than the older smaller one did. The drier is hotter and dries quicker so is used less. Last winter I tested inexpensive solar yard lights to see if they would actually produce light in our dark rainy cold winter… and was very pleased( and surprised) to see even on the darkest stormiest days their lights gave welcome relief every night when taking my dog out to pee.
Can we power a city on that? Not right now, no. And maybe not ever, completely. But every single day clean tech is making better products, more efficient products and the mindset of the public is changing as fast as those advances are coming. This is the time to be pushing politicians to make bold moves in their communities, legislating clean tech into new builds & giving incentives like tax credits to do so. But the pushback is strong.
And so here we are.
Do I believe there are alternatives to Site C? Yes.
I’m not a scientist or hydro expert,nor am I an expert in clean tech. But I have researched enough to know that believing Site C is the only option that exists just isn’t accurate anymore. Believing that it is, is giving up on hope and those innovators out there making it easier and cheaper for us to be better stewards of this planet. No one can model or forecast the power of human ingenuity or the desire to turn things around. It’s self preservation.
Meeting the Paris targets also doesn’t mean tossing out all fiscal sense or independent oversight, something supporters are all too willing to do and unwilling to explain why. Some of those supporters routinely express concern over ‘reckless’ government spending elsewhere ( like the $10 a day daycare plan), but a multi billion dollar dam that never underwent the regulators review? Sure, no problem.
They will ignore the fact people already have a hard time paying Hydro bills in BC, and they will ignore that industry has also warned of the impact of rising hydro rates on their bottom lines… and the good, long term stable employment they provide.
That hypocrisy in this…is glaring. The stakes are huge and not just here in BC, but around the world. Speaking to a friend today, he addressed this point succinctly:
” Look at the reaction when the City of Vancouver announced it wanted to go 100% renewable? Gas lobby comes out swinging and BC Hydro sits quietly. Why is that?
When Site C was approved in 2014, the Paris Accord wasn’t enacted (Dec 2015) and the Federal Liberal Gov’t wasn’t elected (Oct 2015), both of which are now claimed as justification. That’s called ex post facto, and that means the project was approved on spec, which is nuts for a project built with public monies.
He makes an excellent point. Here is a recent…and amusing…example of that push back.
“Vancouver’s future might look green, but for a number of businesses, including restaurants, fireplace manufacturers and the natural gas sector, it looks bleak, according to a new study on the City of Vancouver’s Renewable City Strategy. And while B.C. is energy-rich, Vancouver residents could face “energy poverty,” thanks to a plan to phase out natural gas for heating and a knock-on effect of the ban that could increase electricity prices provincewide and decrease natural gas revenue for the provincial government.
Those are the key concerns identified in a KMG Strategy report released September 19. The report was commissioned by Resource Works, a resource industry lobby group…”
“Muir said a major flaw in the city’s strategy is that it fails to consider economic impacts to Vancouver businesses and homeowners, who already struggle with housing affordability…”
Thank you Mr. Muir, for this statement.
Because in fighting Vancouvers renewable push, Muir-who has written in support of site c – inadvertantly provides us with the major flaw with the former BC Liberal governments decision to exempt Site C from review.
They failed to” consider economic impacts to
Vancouver businesses and homeowners, who already struggle with housing affordability…”
Something that thankfully, the BCUC is trying to sort out, right now.
It’s my continued belief that Site C is wrong. Not just because of the finances, or the risk inherent to building a dam in an area government was once warned to minimize development in, but because the social, cultural and ecological losses are too great.
We know better. And we can do better. And there are a lot of people out there working day and night to make it happen.
“Leaders are limited by their vision rather than by their abilities.”