Last summer we took a three-week road trip to the Peace River region, with four kids and a tent trailer in tow.
Hydro expects to lose at least another $800 million over four years selling power internationally for less than what it costs to produce. On top of that, BC Hydro plans to saddle us with a 70-year debt repayment plan.
It was the first time we had visited this spectacular far corner of our province. The scenery was beautiful, with rolling farmland along the valley of the mighty Peace and vast expanses of forest. It was very illuminating to visit the two existing dams on the Peace River and the proposed Site C dam site, and to talk to various local people about the project, most of whom were adamantly opposed to it.
The proposed $9 billion Site C would be B.C.’s largest ever infrastructure project. There are several controversial aspects to this project, including the flooding of over 31,000 acres of valuable farmland and traditional First Nation territory along the huge 83 kilometre long reservoir.
This assumes the megaproject comes in on budget, which megaprojects almost never do – and this one is already on track to be significantly over budget.
But as our steadily increasing BC Hydro bills arrive this winter, this is a good time to look at one specific aspect: The cost.
Less costly hydro alternatives to Site C include adding a turbine to the Revelstoke Dam, and reducing the amount of hydro sold by the province under the Columbia River Treaty. In Valemount, they have a shovel-ready geothermal project that the B.C. government is reluctant to approve – even though this is exactly the type of decentralized renewable energy projects that should be supported.
To start, even before Site C costs are figured in, we are already facing a 28 per cent hydro rate increase from 2013 to 2019. Site C will significantly add to these increases, and we will be paying for it for the next 70 years.
Site C is not the “clean energy solution” the BC Liberals would have you believe – in fact it has been an impediment for B.C. to move towards a truly diversified, clean energy economy.
Do we actually need a hydro megaproject? Domestic hydro demand has flat-lined, and the cost of green renewables is falling. BC Hydro says that new electricity generated will not be needed for another 20 to 40 years.
This is a very brief sketch of only one aspect among many concerning this very large project, but one thing is clear: if Site C goes ahead, our Hydro bills will show ramped up increases, steadily and significantly, far into the future.
It appears the main purpose for Site C power is to provide publicly subsidised electricity for B.C.’s natural gas industry and the Alberta tarsands. This means that your increased hydro rates will, in part, be helping to subsidize the fossil fuel industry.
Sonia Furstenau is the CVRD area director for Shawnigan Lake, and BC Green party candidate for the Cowichan Valley.