The BC Government could have learned from hydropower disasters in Newfoundland and Labrador and Manitoba as those were unfolding. Spending went out of control on Muskrat Falls and Keeyask. Because NL has only about 10% of BC’s population, the federal government had to step in to avoid ruinous electricity rate increases.
BC could have learned. It did not, because political and private interests ranked ahead of the public’s.
People filling their pockets with Site C cash used a few arguments to gain support for energy policies chosen by Premiers Clark and Horgan.
First, lobbyists said BC population is growing each year by one to two percent, proving, they said, that we regularly need new sources of electricity. However, British Columbia had 1.1 million more residents in 2020 than in 2005 and yet, BC Hydro sold 2% more electricity to residential, commercial and industrial consumers in 2005 than in 2020.
Despite flat demand, BC Hydro spent billions to add generating capacity and tripled its purchases of private power to $1.4 billion in CY 2020.
Site C proponents claimed alternative energy sources were unreliable and more expensive. They talked about dispatchability, which relates to meeting peak demands almost instantly.
Apparently, the laws of physics are unique in British Columbia. Here, only more hydropower could guarantee energy needs are met. Wind turbines & solar panels don’t work in BC?
But in 2020, the European Union relied on those sources for 20% of energy generation. UK’s use of wind and solar was 29%. Some EU nations do better. Wind turbines and solar panels make up as much as 63% of Denmark’s and 33% of Germany’s power.
Energy alternatives to Site C more expensive? Well, facts prove the opposite.
Site C electricity will cost between $120,000 and $160,000 per Gigawatt-hour. No matter what the final cost turns out to be, if Site C even produces electricity, it’s a felonious waste of public money.
Given the failures of other arguments, Site C proponents said the need for more electricity will be driven by vehicle electrification. Consider that those can be recharged when demand is low and even feed back into the grid at times of peak demand, and that vehicles can be charged in large and small solar car parks at workplaces and shopping centres.
In 2009, the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions at the University of Victoria reported that BC had capacity to charge nearly every registered gasoline-powered vehicles on BC roads—even during winter’s peak demand. In summer, generators could theoretically support more than 8.8 million vehicles.
Since then, BC’s generating capacity has increased and the demand for electricity has decreased.
The UK’s National Grid forecasts that households with an EV will be smart charging their car when electricity market prices and power demand are lower. About 45% of homes will be able to offer balancing capability to the grid, creating gigawatts of flexible electricity to help manage peaks and troughs in demand.
Exciting new energy and battery technologies are here today and more on the horizon.
Third world nations that lacked communication systems were able to adopt modern cell phone technology quickly because they weren’t burdened by outdated systems. That’s making a difference in the fight against global poverty.
If British Columbia chooses to stay committed to old and destructive energy generation, the province will be left behind.
Other jurisdictions will adopt new technologies and gain advantages over those that do not.
The fact is, British Columbia is better off without Site C, even if much money has already been spent. Think about the Sunk Cost Fallacy. It may be hard to accept the loss of billions now spent, but we have more to gain from alternative energy systems.
In addition, we would protect top class farmlands and not break faith again with Indigenous people affected by flooding of the Peace River valley.
Sunk Cost Fallacy
The Sunk Cost Fallacy impacts decisions made by individuals, corporations, and governments.
While Premier Horgan and his associates know better, they believed the electorate would accept simple but faulty reasoning defending an uneconomic project that, for their own reasons, they wanted to proceed.
One famous example of sophistry was coined the Concorde Fallacy.
Aircraft and engine manufacturers partnered with the French and British governments in the project. Long before the aircraft was complete, Concorde development was known to be uneconomic. However, the project continued.
Those involved kept pouring money into the project because they had already invested prestige, time, and considerable cash in Concorde.
But the final product was an overpriced flying white elephant. Only fourteen production aircraft took to the air.
Billions of dollars were wasted. The Concorde turned out to be a better showpiece than a flying machine.
Too bad Site C doesn’t offer the same possibility.