There I stood, watching the excavator dig, all of us covered in the fine orange-black powder that the clay here turns into when crushed after a long drought. We are 4 feet down and it is bone dry on top of the site of a spring that appears in winter. In Mid June though,which is usually known as Junuary for the appearance of cooler weather and replenishing rains… there is no sign of water anywhere. The red cedars are dying on eastern Van Isle due to years of summer drought and seeing the dry dusty trench now in front of me, it is easy to see why.
There is no water in the ground in an area that historically was a swamp due to the prevalence of underground springs.
The clay dries like hard pan and the little rain we have had during what is now documented as the driest spring in history in our town beside the sea, runs off and doesn’t absorb. This clay, known locally as Comox Clay, is the strangest thing I have ever seen. It doesn’t turn to dust, it turns to a micro powder like talc, and when I try to wash my hands, the water pools on top of it like mercury. I stare into the sink as I try to rub it away and it turns into a substance like dish soap in my hands…before I have added soap.
Right here in my own backyard, I can’t help feel like I have had a glimpse of the future here, in a valley where the local glacier the ultimately supplies our water aside from winter rains, is shrinking visibly. It used to form a mound between mountain peaks after winter…right now the peaks are slightly higher than the glacier in between.
Which is why when I saw a local article on dam levels and flow in Campbell River and Comox Lake, I started thinking about Site C ( cue the group NDP & BC Liberal think ” OMG Laila not Site C again!!” )
Yes Site C again. Just because I stopped blogging about it for my own health, doesn’t mean I stopped thinking it was wrong. If anything, it’s more wrong now than ever and I hear from sources not happy with Horgans LNG regime inside the NDP, that Horgan is second guessing his decision now. Why?
Because this: Upstream from Site C, is the Williston reservoir, a reservoir that BC Hydro claims hold a multi year supply of water for electricity. BC voters have been fed a repetitive line of bullshit from BC Hydro and from successive BC governments, that Hydro power is THE most reliable, consistent power source in BC.
Except… when it isn’t. The Williston Reservoir saw record low inflows this last fall .
The WAC Bennett dam and Peace River Dam typically provide 30 % of BC’s electricity. However, due to the lack of rain, coupled with higher demand due to the Enbridge explosion, BC hydro had to import electricity from the US and Alberta this spring, as revealed in this discussion between Andrew Weaver and Michelle Mungall in the legislature this spring: https://www.andrewweavermla.ca/2019/05/13/budget-estimates-bc-hydro-collapse-bcs-clean-energy-sector/
(Now, I recognize that due to social media, media and the internet in general the human brain gets bored after 3 minutes of reading, but I actually won’t be able to sleep if I don’t get this all out. Humour me. Please.)
“A. Weaver: I’m going to continue on this theme, because there are a lot of assumptions that have been stated here as facts and conclusions from the report that were not conclusions. They were assumptions. Here are some others. I’m going to discuss the issue of importing power.
The minister has said that we have a surplus of energy produced over the last number of years. However, the large fluctuations that happen from year to year, based on water levels, can dramatically change how much power we produce.
In B.C. Hydro’s compliance filing form F17-19 revenue requirement application, it stated: “In the past ten years, there has been a difference of 12,000 gigawatt hours between low and high water…requiring surplus sales or market purchases.” There’s a slight missing word in there.
Anyway, the reality is the 12,000 gigawatt hours between high and low waters is the key number there. It’s a very big difference.
My question to the minister is this. I’d like to know if we were a net importer of energy in British Columbia over the last year? Yes or no? Or in any of the other previous years? Yes or no?
Hon. M. Mungall: Yes.
A. Weaver: Can the minister please tell us how much B.C. Hydro paid to import energy in March or this past quarter?
Hon. M. Mungall: We spent $54.9 million net importing energy in March.
A. Weaver: So we spent $54 million importing energy. We had too much energy surplus, that we didn’t need these projects. Very interesting.
Can the minister please provide how much power, on average, we have been importing over the last ten years?
Hon. M. Mungall: I did say that I would only provide the yes-or-no answers that the member wanted and the very short answers that he would like, but I feel like I’m doing a disservice to the British Columbians who might be watching this, as well as to the member to not inform him that the reason why there was an import of energy recently is due to low water levels.
For example, in my riding, I can look not too far down the hill and see exactly what those water levels are because the Kootenay Lake is, essentially, a reservoir for B.C. Hydro, along with Duncan Lake and so on. So those are the parts in my riding.
But generally, over the last decade, we’ve actually be exporting energy, not importing it.
A. Weaver: I’ll come to that shortly — maybe now. Pushing on, first I’d like to ask… The $54 million — what was the price that you were selling it at in March of this year?
Hon. M. Mungall: I think the member might have misspoken, but he can correct me if that’s not the case. I think he meant what we were buying it at, the price that we were buying it at.
A. Weaver: Sorry, yes.
Hon. M. Mungall: Okay. In March, we were buying it at $57 per megawatt hour, Canadian.
A. Weaver: So the average price was $57 per megawatt hour.
I understand that Powerex is the key trading arm of B.C. Hydro. Well, it is a trading arm of B.C. Hydro, but I know it’s separate. It imports and exports power when it’s financially advantageous to do so. It brings money directly into the provincial coffers — a good thing, I would suggest.
However, the power we import comes from Alberta and the U.S. I’m concerned that much of it, if not all of it, is brown power, despite the rhetoric we hear from this minister. That’s power created by burning natural gas or coal, which emits high levels of CO2. Over 80 percent of Alberta’s electricity is coal- or gas-generated. In Washington state, there are over a dozen coal and natural gas plants. Can the minister confirm that the majority of the power that B.C. Hydro, via Powerex, imports to B.C. is from natural gas– and coal-fired plants?
Hon. M. Mungall: I appreciate the member’s concern about exactly what type of power is coming to B.C. I know that he knows that electrons aren’t tagged one way or another, except in the situation with the Canadian entitlement, which is the Columbia River treaty. When we’re getting that power coming up from the United States, that is hydroelectric power. We know that that particular power is not generated by using coal or natural gas. In terms of in March, it’s hard to say whether it was natural gas–fired or coal-fired if it was not the Canadian entitlement, power that we were purchasing at that time. We were purchasing at that time, as I said earlier, because of low reservoirs.
That being said, it’s important to note that in Alberta, they’re increasing their wind generation. Solar is increasing as well in Alberta. Wind and solar as well below the 49th parallel is also increasing.
As more renewables come on line, we are obviously trading in more renewables. What I would say is it may be not the case for March, but in general, when we are buying power from other jurisdictions, it’s normally when they have an excess of wind, or an excess of solar, and they’re putting that on to the grid.
What is likely coming into B.C. is power generated from those avenues.
A. Weaver: I’m getting very close to calling for the resignation of this minister, hon. Chair, based on the lack of substance of these answers. This is a minister who clearly does not understand the file, clearly does not understand how electricity is produced and shipped. This is a minister who is responsible for the oversight of B.C. Hydro’s next review? It’s just shocking.
Let me explain to the minister how the power comes through. Coal and natural gas plants typically run, not on natural gas, 24-7. Powerex recognizes that, at night, coal power, which is going 24-7, is really cheap, because demand is low. But it doesn’t need to actually need to sell the power from it’s hydro dams, so it saves that for the day. We’re importing coal power and making money by shipping off clean power.
Now I am just as apt to criticize Weaver as Horgan, for going along with this Clean BC crap plan passed off by the NDP that relies on LNG ( we will talk about this in a moment), but after a series of very factual pointed questions to Mungall ( who is still not minister material and confirms this with her answer…), Mungall resorts to this:
Hon. M. Mungall: The member’s question is if using average water flows for predicting energy generation is good, if it’s the right way to go. I think that is a very important question, and it’s actually one that we’re going to be looking at in phase 2 of our B.C. Hydro review. It is going to, ultimately, feed into the integrated resource plan, the IRP.
As we continue on in this process, I very much appreciate the member’s knowledge on this file. I very much appreciate the member’s expertise in this area and that he is seeking more information. I am doing my best to offer it to him. I know he doesn’t like me personally, but I don’t know that personal attacks are helping the estimates process at all.
Note out to all those women in power trying to make waves for those coming behind. When the heat is on, don’t resort to the deflection above when you clearly can’t handle the truth being presented. Seriously. Women have been having babies and working in fields since time began. Don’t pull this ” He doesn’t like me, this is personal…” crap when called out for your lack of knowledge and flip on Hydro.
But I digress. So because of historic low flows, BC Hydro had to import electricity from brown sources like coal etc, and because of the continuing record drought impacting other watersheds to this day, I suspect we may very well be importing more brown electricity to this day. ( Clean BC is a bullshit plan. The NDP had a good plan called Power BC that didn’t include Site C, but dropped it the second they were in power)
So. The facts so far.
We know we have had summer drought for several years in southern reservoirs in BC.
We know that now we have had winter, spring and likely summer drought in both winter and spring reservoirs all over BC.
We know that BC Hydro has been importing brown electricity to meet demand this spring and likely will be throughout the summer, which is very much keeping the thermal coal industry in the US and Alberta in business.
But wait. There are still very much a couple of wild cards in all of this.
2. Industrial usage of water, from mines, pulp mills and Horgans baby, LNG. Rio Tinto has already had to answer questions on how operations will impact water levels in the Nechako Reservoir. A plan to drain Williston reservoir to lower levels in 2016 in consideration of drought and ” other events” ( insert fracking) was stopped already in 2016, because it would leave both Hudson Hope and the town of Mackenzie high and dry:
“BC Hydro had considered reducing the reservoir’s minimum operating level from 2,147 feet above sea level to 2,140 as a backup plan to generate power in case of province-wide droughts, storms or other disruptions to its electricity transmission system.
Williston Lake, the seventh largest reservoir in the world, was created when BC Hydro built the W.A.C. Bennett dam on the Parsnip and Finlay Rivers in 1967. It is the lifeblood of the town of Mackenzie, pop. 3,500, which relies on its waters to operate three mills.
The possibility of lowering the lake by seven feet provoked panic in Mackenzie, with the mayor telling the Prince George Citizen the lowered water level threatened to “virtually shut down the town.”
One thing BC Hydros new climate change report depends on, is your lack of knowledge when it comes to how industry in BC uses the water in the reservoirs, and the creeks, lakes, rivers and tributaries that drain into Williston and other reservoirs.
According to BC Hydro though, they have it all covered:
“While BC Hydro is predicting higher water flows resulting from climate change over the long term, unpredictable weather patterns are expected to continue in the years ahead. BC Hydro is working to ensure its system performs safely across a wide range of conditions and extreme events
So interesting, because while yes, we do have extreme weather in fall and winter, now known as rain events, instead of rainfall, and we do have periods of massive snowfall and cold….because of ongoing drought and warmer weather conditions here in BC and the northern parts of Canada, we are still at a deficit overall come summer. What, the actual f*ck?
Which brings me to LNG in BC, the big reason Site C was continued by John Horgan, whose government doubled down on secrecy, making the amount of royalties paid secret to the public, and increased Clarks subsidies to the corporate hogs comprising LNG Canada’s consortium.
Horgans government has tried hard to push that this LNG plant will be the cleanest ever, implying it would be electrified with hydro power.… yet Trudeau recently gifted them corporate welfare to buy gas powered turbine to the tune of $220 million. https://vancouversun.com/news/local-news/feds-spend-275-million-on-40-billion-lng-canada-project-including-cash-to-buy-gas-turbines
But the enviro wing in BC won’t talk about that for fear of a Scheer ” We have no climate plan” government.
Is your head hurting yet? Because mine is. And thank you for sticking with me this far, but here is the punch line to what is a terrible joke on British Columbians.
Even as recently as May, media here in BC was pushing the line that LNG from BC was a huge boon, supplying China with infinite power ! Infinite! ( insert eyeroll because already 57% of China’s needs are met domestically, with reserves yet to be tapped)
Yet the reality is that just a week ago Bloomberg was reporting on what others have reported for some time: Thermal coal investment in developing countries eager for cheap energy is reaching an alltime high, with China leading investments.
Will BC LNG save the planet as many in the NDP here have claimed? Clean energy for all?
Just as we said under Clark, LNG Canada will not save the world with clean energy. It will simply displace where the pollution occurs worldwide while BC politicians pretend everything is awesome.
Site C will not power reliable energy to power homes in BC, it will at best, provide the water for fracking operations near by that will, by default, create the greatest risk to this dam being built in the most unstable portion of the valley. Every single talking point presented by Horgan, Heyman and Mungall is literally bullshit. And if my curse words offend you, too bad. At least manure fertilizes my garden. The crap the BC NDP spreads when it comes to LNG does more harm than good.
So where are we now in all this crap?
BC Hydro released a video a week ago on the diversion tunnels that should have been done long ago, showing they are nearly done. “ One step closer to completion” the article heralded.
Looks good to the uninformed, when the reality is that that north bank is still unstable… and always will be. Mankind has developed a weird sort of complex in being able to conquer nature, but in retrospect, ego has no place in engineering.
Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.
Which leads me to these very recent pics of Site C’s north bank. Willistons reservoir has been very low and boaters have been hardly able to get into the lake because the launches don’t go out far enough. Climate change IS unpredicatable, but in BC we have a documented repeat of drought conditions in many reservoir areas for years, so how BC hydro can claim forecasts in years yet to come call for increased rain, is a mystery.
We just don’t know. Period.
These new photos are telling. There is some major erosion showing in the middle of one of these shots above the excavator,not to mention elsewhere. We know their attempts at shotcrete ( thin,concrete solution sprayed to reinforce walls) has been unsuccessful.
They have been focused on their tunnel liner, rather than on their bank, and it shows to those of us with engineering knowledge. You should also note that the road around the corner of the office ( the large white building ) is now blocked off… and how much is this costing BC taxpayers? ( IS this why the BC govt that fought so hard against class size and composition concessions asked for by the Clark government, is now asking for the same concessions? )
I have always said that this dam could be built…. but just because you can, doesn’t mean you should, and at what cost? The silence of NDP mla’s who, I know without fail, see the climate change writing on the wall, is disappointing.
For the record, my view is that pursuing BC LNG for foreign export is a disaster that will only benefit the foreign corps getting ridiculous subsidies to pursue it. My view has on this hasn’t changed since Horgan and I talked by phone years ago about fracking in BC, when he promised me if the science didn’t support it, neither would he.
I know that there are many within the BC NDP party who opposed this publicly when Clark was in power.
I urge those same people to publicly resume their opposition now. We can use BC gas here in BC to help people on wood, or oil, or coal( yes this is still happening in BC) heat to get off oil furnaces. It may surprise many in metro Van whose votes the NDP rely on to know that in rural BC, oil heat and oil tanks/furnaces are still a thing.
China is not a country we can look to in meeting any target, period. Despite Jason Kenneys ” Git er done” oil mantra, even southern Alberta is taking care of their own – Raymond Alberta has become a net zero solar powered community.
This, is what opponents of Site C have been calling for here in BC for years. Community micro grids of solar or wind that reduce load on the main grid which isn’t producing as much electricity during times of low flow from drought.
It is what the BC NDPS former, pre-election platform called for in Power BC. Solar and wind community power grids that reduce the load on the main grid provided by what used to be a consistent power supply in BC.
My gosh, even Mungall admitted in the Hansard transcript above, that her own reservoir was at ridiculously low levels.
Yet BC continues along with Site C, at massive cost to taxpayer and Hydro ratepayers, for what reason? To justify Horgans decision to continue?
We can do better, and each of you know its possible…..
I know John Horgan won’t listen to me.
Nor will Trudeau, despite his PR on being a climate champion and water box thingy proponent. Scheer isn’t even in this race to nowhere, his plan is sooo bad.
But for the sake of all our children and grandchildren, I hope you will listen…and act. If you opposed LNG under Clark, you owe it to all of us to oppose it loudly now under Horgan.