BC Hydro

From the news archives: Site C history

An item previously published at In-Sights but worth reviewing as the ecological and financial disaster continues to unfold:

Large Dams Cost Twice Original Budget, Researchers Say, Bloomberg Business, March 11, 2014:

Large dams run 96 percent over budget on average, according to a University of Oxford study based on projects in 65 countries including Brazil and China. The study, to be published today in the journal Energy Policy, showed that large dams also took about 2.3 years longer to complete than originally planned. That was about 44 percent longer than projected at the point of approval. The research was based on a study of 245 dams…

Million here, billion there, infrastructure cost overruns add up, Dermod Travis, Integrity BC, September 8, 2015:

Something is amiss when infrastructure projects routinely overshoot their original estimates by millions – and sometimes – billions of dollars in B.C.

It isn’t rounding errors. It’s sloppy estimating, bad procurement, ill-conceived plans and often a lack of a boss where the buck stops on some projects…

We learn that, around the world, large dams routinely cost double the amounts estimated and we know the budgets and construction periods of BC Liberal mega projects invariably need multiple adjustments until they finally finish “on time, on budget” despite being far off the marks on both. See Liberal estimates and guesstimates for detail.

It’s one thing for the budget of an $800 million truck roadway to soar by half a billion dollars; it would be quite another thing for a $9 billion dam to double in cost.

The following was published here previously and is worth reading again as commitments mount at BC Hydro’s Site C:

Globe and Mail, October 4, 1979:

British Columbia Hydro has announced plans to apply for approval for a hydro-electric power project at Site C on the Peace River…

Globe and Mail, February 13, 1981:

British Columbia Hydro has applied for a water licence to build the $1.95 billion [equivalent to $5.1 billion in 2017] Site C power project on the Peace River…

Globe and Mail, December 14, 1981:

Conflicts, contradictions and lack of clarity in testimony and reports marked the first hearings into B.C. Hydro’s proposed $2.64-billion hydro-electric dam on the Peace River…

The dam has sparked controversy since its inception. Proponents claim it could be an economic boon to the community and the province. Opponents say the loss of agricultural land, wildlife reserves and heritage resources, coupled with doubts as to the accuracy of Hydro’s energy forecasts, leave some question of the need for such a huge dam…

One thing is clear: there are no consistent or totally accurate methods of forecasting electrical demand. In fact, William Best, Hydro vice- president, said the utility’s forecasting and planning record wasn’t too good…

Globe and Mail, September 8, 1982:

B.C. Hydro has notified the B.C. Utilities Commission of plans to delay its proposed Site C dam project on the Peace River by 22 months.

Abandon dam plan, study says, Sarah Cox, Vancouver Sun, February 9, 1987:

Plans to build the controversial Site C dam in northeastern B.C. should be abandoned in favor of a cheaper and equally lucrative energy conservation program, says a study released today.

The study, by the Northwest Conservation Act Coalition, says B.C. Hydro can generate the same amount of surplus electricity by improving industrial equipment as by building the $1.4-billion dam and generating station – and for about one-half the cost.

The conservation program would also create more long-term jobs and spur more economic activity than the Site C proposal, says the NCAC…

Site C dam quietly moved to Hydro’s front burner, Justine Hunter, Vancouver Sun, September 18, 1989:

B.C. Hydro has stepped up plans to build the Site C hydroelectric dam on the Peace River, quietly reviving the multi-billion-dollar project shelved by the provincial cabinet in 1983 amid an uproar of opposition.

…Hydro’s move is based on projected needs “which may or may not be realized…”

Energy minister sees alternatives to Site C, Vancouver Sun, May 10, 1990

Power projects initiated by B.C. Hydro will be increasingly guided by environmental concerns because of mounting public pressure, says Energy Minister Jack Davis.

But he said the province has an abundance of power sources: “We have the scope to be different,” he told the Electric Energy Forum.

Davis cited various ways B.C. Hydro can get more power without building the Site C project, which is opposed by agriculture-based interests because prime land would be flooded…

If it’s more jobs we want, conservation beats building dam, Judy Lindsay, Vancouver Sun, August 8, 1991

AFTER FIVE YEARS blessedly free of the kind of costly mega-projects that captivated previous governments, B.C. is overdue for a fix of concrete, according to Premier Rita Johnston.

In a policy statement issued during the leadership campaign Johnston said she wants to accelerate construction of the $3-billion Site C dam, long proposed for the Peace River in northern B.C. but currently on B.C. Hydro’s back-burner.

Before she lifts that ceremonial first shovelful of dirt for the project, however, she should listen to David Sims and Mark Jaccard.

Those two men have some interesting findings for would-be dam builders.

Sims, a graduate student at Simon Fraser University, and Jaccard, an assistant professor in resource and environmental management, compared the employment effects of Site C construction with Hydro’s energy conservation efforts, packaged under the rubric Power Smart.

Sims and Jaccard say Power Smart would create more work for less money than the dam…

Peace River Site C dam dead, Rod Nutt, Vancouver Sun, November 30, 1993

Site C is dead for two reasons,” Eliesen said. “The fiscal exposure is too great . . . the dam is too costly. Also it is environmentally unacceptable…

Developing nations are making the same mistakes we have, Times Colonist, March 17, 1995

The Quebec government’s move to postpone the Great Whale hydro-electric project and the British Columbia government’s decision to shelve the Site C dam are the most recent indications that “the large dam era” in North America has finally come to a close.

…While some of these projects helped to create wealth and development, they also came with a huge environmental and social price tag. Fortunately, we’re now at the stage where we’re willing and able to explore alternative energy strategies and, in British Columbia, conservation practices have freed up new energy at a fraction of the cost of new dam development. Similarly, the dam issues of the 90s in much of the United States are focusing on the dismantling of old dams as opposed to the construction of new ones…

Rod Nutt, Sun Business Reporter. The Vancouver Sun, 18 Jan 1997:

In the early 1980s, B.C. Hydro stated it needed the Site C Dam on the Peace River. That project went to a full public hearing and the commission correctly found that it could not be justified.

BC Hydro boss wants controversial Site C dam project revived, Canadian Press, March 20, 2001

The chairman of B.C. Hydro said Tuesday he’d like to see a controversial northern B.C. dam project revived and get fast-track approval from the government…

Controversial Site C dam still a potential Hydro project, Alaska Highway News, June 1, 2003

The controversial Site C hydro mega-project is getting new life on BC Hydro’s list of potential power projects.

Province needs a new hydro dam, Times Colonist, April 3, 2004

B.C. Hydro is using the C-word again. It’s promoting construction of the Site C dam on the Peace River to boost our supply of cheap electricity…

Despite the cost of the project — estimated at $2.1 billion today, although earlier estimates have been around $3 billion — hydro-electric development is still regarded as the most cost- effective way to produce power…

Hydro expresses confidence that the private sector can provide as much as 99 per cent of the cost of building the dam…

B.C. Hydro wraps up Site C pre-consultation, Alaska Highway News, March 20, 2008

B.C. Hydro has completed pre-consultation meetings for the proposed Site C dam and will move into the second round of consultations in May…

Site C dam proposal moves ahead, Black Press, January 8, 2008

BC Hydro completed the opening phase of a feasibility study on the construction of a third dam on the Peace River, estimating that the project could cost between $5 billion and $6.6 billion.

That’s roughly twice the cost estimate given when the Site C project was presented to the B.C. Utilities Commission in 1982…

Site C support “marginal”, Prince George Free Press, February 26, 2009

Public support for the development of a major hydroelectric dam at Site C on the Peace River is marginal, according to a report released by B.C. Hydro earlier this month…

Drilling hole on a well-known archaeological site, Canadian Press, June 26, 2009

…BC Hydro drilled a sump within boundaries of a recorded archaeological site during geotechnical investigations last year. The site was an important historic area that First Nations people once occupied…

B.C. nearing Site C decision, Scott Simpson, Times Colonist, April 16, 2010

Energy Minister Blair Lekstrom has a big decision to make.

The MLA from Dawson Creek says he will not wait for detailed engineering and environmental studies before choosing whether or not to proceed with the proposed Site C dam on the Peace River.

An announcement is expected as early as next week…

Site C hydro dam approved, Prince Rupert Daily News, April 21, 2010

“The decision has been made,” Campbell said to applause…

“Site C is an important part of B.C.’s energy, economic and social future and we are ready to take it on in all of its detail and in all of its complications, so we can build the future that our young people deserve.”

[Blair Lekstrom] said discussions with First Nations would go forward. “We have to sit down and continue the dialogue that we have developed with Treaty 8 First Nations…

…Hudson’s Hope Mayor Karen Anderson was surprised at the conclusiveness of the language in the announcement and said she does not have faith that further public consultation will be given much consideration in the assessment process.

“We went into consultations, we asked certain questions and we have never heard the answers to those questions, so I think that speaks for itself.”…

Money talks but Hydro won’t listen. B.C. band quits Site C consultations, Canadian Press, August 5, 2010

The McLeod Lake Indian Band has returned more than $100,000 dollars to B.C. Hydro and says it’s pulling out of the consultation process for the proposed Site C hydroelectric dam in northeastern B.C.

Hydro provided the funding to the band to assist with participation in talks surrounding the massive dam.

Taking part in the process is pointless, band chief Derek Orr said in a press release issued Wednesday, because building the project has become a foregone conclusion and the band has been excluded from any decision-making.

When the consultation process began this spring, the band raised concerns about the historical impact the W.A.C. Bennett and Peace Canyon dams have had on the band and its traditional territory…


29 replies »

  1. How low can bc go?
    Friday bc news release just before holidays.
    50 shades of grey truthiness
    Full inquiry

    Wtf revelstoke site 6 for 420 million dollars 500 mW!
    Forget site C


  2. The larger the price the easier it is for a few million here and a few million there to go to buddies, pals,donors, supporters and insiders. I really don't think this has anything to do with what is best for the Province, I think it is just to do huge projects with big budgets so contracts can be handed out. We all know that CC and her gang will have a better retirement than the rest of us.


  3. Exactly, its not about, the best most efficient and cost effective project. Its about ensuring that the “dark money” invested into the parties coffers, obtains the richest most profitable payoff, for the participants. The old adage “follow the money” has never been more appropriate in this case and in many other “favorite projects” of the current group in power.
    Perhaps its time to invite Madam Charbenneau, and perhaps a UN member of the Group involved in Corruption in Governance, on a fact finding mission. The exploration of BC's current method of tendering, project management, funding, and indeed specific contracts for Site C, and perhaps the IPP scenario's, would make for a very interesting and revealing, discussion indeed.
    It is my personal belief that it is time for this and indeed an enquiry into this provincial governments “modus operandi” with regard to its governance and all aspects of fiscal planning for these projects, is required. While their at it, a cursery look at the BC Rail issue and the settlement paid to two of the convicted perpitraitor's is also warranted.
    In any other jurisdiction in the world, this would not be tolerated. This nonsense just keeps on going.


  4. Okay the BC Liberals are saying we need the Hydro and we need it now. To the ordinary individual this sounds like we are running out of Hydro and we better build a new generating facility………

    Then today I read in the G&M: ” the intensely partisan B.C. Liberal Premier has leaned over the fence to offer help to her New Democratic Party pal next door – she wants to share power. More precisely, B.C.’s Christy Clark wants to sell some of her province’s abundant renewable electricity to help Alberta wean itself off coal-fired generation.”

    Now to the ordinary individual this sounds like we have lots of Hydro. So much so we want to sell our excess Hydro ? Read the article and then read the comments including: ” As a long time resident of BC and keen observer of what passes for our provincial politics, I have only one piece of advice for Premier Notley – run away, very fast and very far. Run away. Christy Clark is an ethical train wreck scandal waiting to be exposed. Keep your distance so that you don't get splattered. “


    Guy in Victoria


  5. Thanks Norm for the interesting timeline. Any idea how many times it's been “Site C is required for future energy needs for British Columbians” versus “Site C is required for export to US markets.” I think it must be an odd/even day thing.


  6. In October of 2011 BC’s Auditor General raised another of his many concerns about BC Hydro’s deferred debt practices. “There does not appear to be a plan to reduce the balance of these accounts, let alone halt their growth,” he stated. “If overused, rate-regulated deferrals can mask the true cost of doing business, distort the financial condition of an enterprise and place undue burdens on future ratepayers.”

    Then Energy Minister Rich Coleman (Now The Gaseous Underboss) dismissed the concerns, saying he was confident BC Hydro would repay the expenses once projects like Site C were completed and could bring in revenue. Coleman’s plan is now revealed to consist of adding $10 billion to Hydro’s debt to build a facility that will sell it’s output at a loss.

    Our grandchildren will be impressed.


  7. If site c is going to have cost overruns like the rest of the hydro electric projects in the world it is going to leave our grandchildren with a massive debt even if you go solar you are going to have to pay it in taxes.

    Teddy Roosevelt said Who we are is what we leave behind. Not a philosophy of Christy Clark.


  8. Anon @ 10:12 Right On! Can you imagine how much money has been pissed away on studies since this scheme was promulgated in '79 – 37 years ago? Probably enough to build it!
    I yearn for the “Good Old Days” when Hydro (and the province) called open tenders for proposed works and it was common knowledge just what was proposed and what it was going to cost. None of this 'request for a five lane bridge' and viola – you just bought a 10 lane structure. (And NOT for just twice as much money!) Just as a 3 year old is not 1/2 as smart as a 6 year old, Chrispy is not twice as smart as a sixth grader. You get what I mean.
    Yes, by all means, call an inquiry!


  9. Part of the reason for Site C is to back up the intermittent power from IPPs. So BC Hydro is expected to spend %9 billion on Site C, in order to back up money-losing IPP power?


  10. “The energy it (Site C) provides will support the development of more independent power projects by backing up intermittent resources such as wind.”

    From Hansard Sept 30, 2015, bottom of p. 9315:


    So a lot of IPP power costs BC Hydro more than what BCH sells power for. Site C is apparently 'needed' to back up more intermittent IPP power. Site C would cost BC Hydro $9 billion, so BCH can lose even more money buying more IPP power. WTF? Trying to understand.

    BC Hydro is still owned by the province of BC, except for the parts which were sold off in 2002.


  11. Its not about financial sense or BC hydro actually making money. IPP's are a financial windfall for those involved, BC Liberal insiders and Campbell's associates, who helped put this whole concept together. Privatize profits, socialize the debt, BC Liberal mantra and doctrine. The builders and operators are being paid much more than the power is worth. Now it appears, that IPP's will not “perform” as expected, hence the need for site c. In addition, its time for “more work” for BC Liberal supporters in the corptocracy. Think 9 billion is the final price? Given past performance of this “club” of malfeasants, I'd double that amount, and yes, the taxpayer will again be “on the hook”,
    for the total debt. Reality is, its quite a scam that's running…personal opinion, by observation.


  12. A famine of demand and a feast of premium priced energy contracts fueled by propa?
    Breach of public trust and fudiciary duty?


  13. Pingback: The Narwhal
  14. $2.1B in 2004 and we are now at what could easily be $20B as BCHydro reports they have no idea what the cost will be if they can figure out a way to solve the geotechnical issues causing problems under the powerhouse structure and the yet to be started dam.
    Even at the last estimate of $10.7B, keeping in mind Deloitte forecast of >$12B in 2017, the project will cause rate increases that will kneecap any economic recovery efforts the NDP come up with and make life less affordable for ratepayers. The Premier has no choice but to terminate if economics are any part of the decision. At this point it will be pure self gratification to move ahead as the damage to the economy will be permanent. The economy could recover from a cut losses approach which would minimize the loss to less than the $6B that has been spent as assets were sold and re-purposed.


  15. Norm is my source of choice; I’m not complaining, just pointing out an error: “for the budget of an $800 million truck roadway to soar half a billion dollars” is actually a reduction by more than a third.


Leave a reply but be on topic and civil.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s