Site C not likely to be on time or on budget: BCUC

 

Construction of the Moberly River construction bridge, looking northeast. (October 2016)

The Site C hydroelectric dam project is neither likely to finish on time nor on budget, according to the British Columbia Utilities Commission.

In fact, the cost may climb as high as $10 billion, according to the commission’s final report that was released today.

“This was a challenging project with a very tight timeframe,” said David Morton, Chair & CEO of the BCUC. “With the significant contributions of those who participated in this Inquiry, the panel and commission staff worked very hard to produce a report that will assist the government in its decision making.”

The commission was charged with determining whether the project should continue to proceed, be scrapped completely, or be mothballed with the idea that it would be resurrected at a later date. The latter was the “least attractive” of the three.

The Site C Inquiry Panel received 620 written submissions, and heard from 304 speakers during 11 community input sessions throughout the province, including Prince George. In addition, the panel held three First Nations input sessions and two technical presentation sessions.

The Panel’s key findings are:

  • The BCUC is not persuaded that the Site C project will remain on schedule for a November 2024 in‐ service date. The Panel also finds that the project is not within the proposed budget of $8.335 billion. Currently, completion costs may be in excess of $10 billion.
  • The panel finds the least attractive of the three scenarios is to suspend and restart the project in 2024. The suspension and restart scenario adds at least an estimated $3.6 billion to final costs and is by far the most expensive of the three scenarios. In addition, the panel considers it the most risky scenario because, among other things, environmental permits will expire and that will require new applications and approvals.
  • The panel finds the Site C termination and remediation costs to be approximately $1.8 billion, in addition to the costs of finding alternative energy sources to meet demand.
  • Regarding future energy needs, the panel finds BC Hydro’s mid load forecast to be excessively optimistic and considers it more appropriate to use the low load forecast in answering the questions set out in the inquiry. In addition, the panel is of the view that there are risks that could result in demand being less than the low case.
  • The panel believes increasingly viable alternative energy sources such as wind, geothermal and industrial curtailment could provide similar benefits to ratepayers as the Site C project, with an equal or lower Unit Energy Cost.
  • Neither completing Site C nor implementing a portfolio of alternative energy sources is without risk.
  • Minister of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources Michelle Mungall has issued the following statement on the final report:

“Our government initiated the BCUC review of Site C to assist us in making the best decision for keeping BC Hydro rates affordable in the long term.

“The BCUC’s findings are based on 620 written and 304 oral submissions from individuals and organizations, and thousands of pages of information on the project provided to the BCUC and made available to the public.

“I want to thank the BCUC, BC Hydro and all participants for their contributions and for completing the review under extremely demanding timelines.

“Now it is our turn, as government, to determine whether Site C is in the best interests of British Columbians, after considering the BCUC’s findings and other issues outside the scope of this review.

“This will be an extremely difficult decision. We inherited a project that was advanced by the previous government without proper regulatory oversight, is now more than two years into construction, employs more than 2,000 people, and on which about $2 billion has already been spent.

“We are going to take the time we need to make a decision on Site C that works for B.C. families, businesses and the sustainability of our environment and economy.

“As part of our decision-making process, this month the Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation and I will be meeting with Treaty 8 First Nations impacted by the project. We will also be taking other First Nation interests expressed during the Site C review and other processes into account.

“Given the complexity of the issues involved, and the significant and long-term impacts for our province, this is a decision we take very seriously. We anticipate a decision by the end of the year.”