Site C is old school thinking

Editor: The Joint Review Panel (JRP) report for Site C dam was released last week.


The Joint Review Panel (JRP) report for Site C dam was released last week. They didn’t say whether they supported the project, but indicted the regressive approach taken by the B.C. government and B.C. Hydro in proposing a mega-project as a solution for the 21st century.

Site C is perfectly matched with the old school corporate culture in B.C. Hydro. The question is why would the provincial government support the $8 billion project?

It blatantly contradicts the government’s commitment to prudently manage the province’s scarce fiscal resources. The Panel report provides no compelling justification for the government to dump billions of dollars into the project. In fact, B.C. Hydro failed to convince the Panel that Site C was even necessary.

Site C fails both the ecological and social tests. The Panel details a comprehensive list of environmental and social destruction it will cause. In most cases, the damage is permanent, and to a great extent, cannot be mitigated.

With two strikes against the project, the Panel went on to question the financial foundation of Site C. They significantly weakened the arguments that may be used to defend the viability of the project.

While the Panel found that over decades Site C “would be the least expensive of the alternatives,” they stated, “the Proponent has not fully demonstrated the need for the Project on the timetable set forth.”

The Panel also questioned whether B.C. Hydro had considered other options, notably geothermal, and highlighted the government had put ‘policy constraints’ on the utility, making “some other alternatives unavailable.”

The Panel suggested that although some of the alternatives might come at slightly higher costs, they “would allow supply to better follow demand, obviating most of the early-year losses of Site C.”

While Site C may be the “least expensive of the alternatives” for B.C. Hydro, it’s also the least innovative and comes with high social and ecological costs.

There is a better way – clean technology. Unfortunately, these solutions are being intentionally sidelined even though they stimulate new investment, create jobs, cause less damage, and all without the huge burden to the taxpayer.

Site C is 1950s thinking. It is a big-government solution. It is massive government-funded infrastructure in rural British Columbia with crippling up-front costs and a long payback period.

If the B.C. Liberals go ahead with Site C, they must explain to British Columbians why they are being saddled with the expense of a marginal project.

They will have to explain why there is no policy in place to compel the public utility to work with private enterprise to innovate and harness the abundant solar, wind, tidal and geothermal energy in the province.

Adam Olsen

Leader, B.C. Greens Party