A year ago, John Horgan’s NDP government told us that Site C completion was the best way to meet the province’s future energy needs. Since then, additional evidence proves the decision was a mistake.
The latest comes with news Alberta will bring on five more renewable energy projects by mid-2021. These will not destroy valuable farmland or offend indigenous rights. In fact, First Nations are involved in ownership and will directly benefit through creation of permanent jobs.
Site C power will cost above 10 cents a kilowatt-hour, perhaps as much as 13 cents. National Observer reports on Alberta new acquisitions:
The average weighted price of power at the five planned projects is 3.9 cents per kilowatt-hour… That is just above the record low price of 3.7 cents set when the inaugural program launched last year…
In recent days, University of Kansas (KU) signed an agreement with Westar Energy to fill its electricity needs from a wind farm. The 20-year, fixed rate agreement provides electricity at 1.8 cents per kilowatt-hour.
Here is a simple comparison of Site C capital costs to those established for Alberta’s projects:
Energy Minister Bill Bennett argued in 2014 that his $7.9 billion budget was firm, final and guaranteed because the world’s top experts had studied the numbers and were satisfied they were accurate, even generous.
In 2017, we learned the latest budget was $10.7 billion, proving cost estimates of megaprojects move unceasingly upward.
Those budgets exclude intrinsic values of the more than 50 miles of Peace River valley to be flooded, an area that includes some of the British Columbia’s best farmland. Nor does it include allowances for massive damage awards when the Supreme Court of Canada ultimately decides indigenous rights have been oppressed.
Additionally, there is an uncalculated risk of failure because the hydro project is sited on historically unstable lands and near the epicentre of a recent earthquake of 4.5 Richter magnitude scale.
Site C proponents argue that British Columbia needs firm power. Of course, the new hydro project will provide well less than 10% of provincial capacity. Much more than that level of renewable power could be integrated without difficulty. In Spain, 35% of the yearly energy comes from renewable wind and solar and the country plans for the ratio to grow in the next decade.
Oil soaked politicians like Trudeau give lip service to climate change and leaders like Trump favour full-blown denial. But, scientists and smart business people take positive action while Canada’s decision makers stay committed to outdated energy technologies.
Intensive work in university and commercial laboratories is resulting in new power creation and storage capabilities. The knowledge pipelines are alive with examples:
Stanford researchers have developed a water-based battery to provide a cheap way to store wind or solar energy. The researchers coaxed a reversible electron-exchange between water and manganese sulfate, a cheap, abundant industrial salt.
Canadian born MIT Professor Donald Sadoway published results of his new battery technology, using liquid metal, in Nature, the world’s preeminent science journal. “The battery, based on electrodes made of sodium and nickel chloride and using a new type of metal mesh membrane, could be used for grid-scale installations…” At TED in 2012, Sadoway talked about the missing link to renewable energy.
Switzerland based Innolith reports its batteries use “an unconventional inorganic electrolyte that delivers far greater durability, but also ensures a safer battery that is fundamentally non-flammable…” The company promises mass production by 2020 and predicts “new generations of inorganic batteries that promise to deliver substantial gains in performance.”
Other disruptive technologies for energy generation and storage are available or in development.
Nobel Prize–winning Stanford physics professor Robert Laughlin is lead scientist in a molten-salt energy storage project backed by Google parent company Alphabet and Bill Gate’s Breakthrough Energy Ventures, a wealthy investment fund that is backing clean renewables.
Liquid Air Energy Storage is going beyond demonstration. LAES has been compared to pumped hydro, where excess electricity is used to pump water up to a reservoir above a hydroelectric turbine. But unlike pumped hydro, LAES doesn’t require a water system or elevation differences to operate.
Last year, UK wind farm owners were paid a reported £100m to turn off turbines when there was more energy than the grid needed. The Hydrogen Council envisages that surplus solar and wind energy could be converted to hydrogen for on-demand power.
Developed in Australia, the HAZER® Process takes two ubiquitous and cheap feedstocks (natural gas and iron ore), and uses these to generate two high value, high demand products (hydrogen & synthetic graphite) with global market applications.
I could go on but the point is that wasting money on destructive energy projects makes zero sense when there are better alternatives.
British Columbia is spending billions on Site C. It could suspend the project today and have less harmful and cheaper sources of clean power operational by the time more electricity is needed