Site C

Foundation of lies and misinformation supports the Horgan-Clark boondoggle

BC Hydro sought environmental approval for construction of Site C in 2011. In that year, global wind power capacity was 238 gigawatts. While construction of BC’s controversial hydropower project dragged on, worldwide capacity for wind power reached 837 GW in 2021.

If Site C suffers no further delays in its scheduled 2025 startup, global wind capacity according to GWEC will then exceed 1.3 terawatts, more than five times the level in 2011.

British Columbia’s energy “experts” refused to acknowledge there were less harmful alternatives to a power project that had been on their radar for decades. Inertia is a powerful force, particularly when it facilitates lucrative employment.

Elsewhere, wind power facilities that might take 2 years from feasibility studies to installation and commissioning were becoming commonplace.

Global Wind Energy Council statistics
Source: IRENA, Renewable Energy Statistics 2022

Given the urgent need for low-carbon energy, the move to wind power is not surprising. Analysis by USA’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory found that “societal value of wind is far in excess of costs.”

Berkeley Lab reported installed cost of wind turbines in 2021 averaged around $800,000 per MW. If Site C meets its current budget, the per MW capital cost would be almost $15 million. That huge number is likely to grow given current inflation, rising interest rates and costly settlements now owed Indigenous groups affected by industrialization of traditional lands.

Berkeley Lab reports:

The average levelized cost of wind energy is down to $33/MWh. Levelized costs vary across time and geography, but the national average stood at $33/MWh in 2020—down substantially historically, though consistent with the previous two years. (Cost estimates do not count the effect of federal tax incentives for wind.)

When the Site C budget was $10.7 billion, C.D.Howe Institute calculated its levelized cost of energy would be $101/MWh. With the project’s capital budget now $16 billion and likely rising, LCOE will be far greater, even more than the highest retail price BC Hydro charges residential consumers and 2x to 3x the price charged fossil fuel producers.

Although 98.5% of BC Hydro generating capacity is hydroelectric, individuals and interest groups that stood to gain financially from Site C mounted a public campaign. They aimed to convince citizens that wind and solar power could not meet the province’s future energy needs since output was not dispatchable, able to be turned on or off instantly.

Yet other jurisdictions are increasingly able to utilize these less harmful power sources. Global Electricity Review reports that wind and solar provided 10 percent of the global supply of electricity in 2021. The percentage is even higher in USA.

In its comprehensive review of hydro projects then underway in British Columbia and Manitoba, C.D. Howe Institute urged the governments to re-examine:

…the economics of these projects and consider cancelling projects which have more cost effective alternatives. To avoid uneconomic projects in the future, the report also recommends strengthening institutional independence – in particular, by ensuring independent regulatory review for mega-projects…

The C.D. Howe review explained how the sunk-cost fallacy hindered cancellation even when better and lower cost alternatives were available:

Policymakers often justify proceeding with uneconomic projects due to the significant amount of money that has already been spent. However, the decision whether to proceed with a project should be determined by the yet-to-be-spent costs, instead of costs already spent. Factoring sunk costs into decision making results in a phenomenon known as the “sunk-cost fallacy.

Another factor was involved. As John Horgan explained to Ken Boon, the NDP did not want to give the appearance of being opposed to major projects. The C.D. Howe report added:

Politics make the decision to cancel (or defer) a project even more difficult as some politicians perceive project terminations as an admission of failure. Alongside the funds spent, politicians invest their reputation and electability… However, careful economic analysis suggests that BC ratepayers may, in fact, end up paying more by the project continuing than they would if they simply paid off the debt already incurred and pursued an alternative path.

In proceeding with Site C, political and business interests took advantage of citizens of British Columbia. They were aided by corporate media not interested in protecting the public interest. Paul H. Weaver, a former political scientist at Harvard University, proposed that media and government had become “so ensnared in a symbiotic web of lies that the news media are unable to tell the public what is true and the government is unable to govern effectively.”

Most long-time pundits in the Press Gallery refused to fully examine and report on Site C’s foundation of lies and misinformation. Joking about the unstable ground beneath Site C, Vaughn Palmer recently told a CKNW audience, “I am going to go to the official opening, but I am going to stand upstream.” 

Considering that Palmer referred to writers like the one you’re reading as “nincompoops ranting in their underpants,” I should be angered by the attempt at humour. Instead, I see it as an admission of Palmer’s failure to report accurately on the boondoggle unfolding 900 kilometres from where he lives. With perhaps a single exception, Palmer’s longtime Press Gallery colleagues were similarly uninterested in reporting fully on an unnecessary megaproject.

Categories: Site C

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8 replies »

  1. Thanks for this article Norm. Electricity from wind turbines have advanced a huge amount in the last two decades.

    Fifteen years ago or so the large insurance underwriters withdrew from selling operator insurance because the industry was populated with simpleton operators who liked to think that turbines could be left to run, unbridled in all conditions. Folks who understood machinery and matters like bearing wear were shutout. When the finance folks confronted the reality of no insurance coverage wind turbine operations took on a more intelligent style.

    The break through was the installation of real time monitoring gear that detected temperatures at critical locations, shaft vibrations and several screens that captured particulates in oil.

    This real time information was then relayed to a central processor via satellite . The feed allowed the operator to keep the generator operating, in the agreed parameters, and the insurer to have or know of records proving so.

    By these means the operating and financial risks of wind turbines declined dramatically . This style of operating turbine gear was variously understood by the aviation industry and only needed to be transferred to operating wind turbines.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Burrard thermal=site C and free as already existed?
    Manufacturing consent?
    geothermal BC untapped?
    keeyask muskrat bipole 3?


  3. Imagine a wind turbine that can generate 14.7 million watts (14.7 MW) . . . with 3 blades at 108 m (354 ft.) long each, with a rotor diameter of 222 m (728 ft.) Now multiply by 60!
    This offshore wind farm will be in Northern Scotland’s Moray Firth, 200 km N from Edinburgh on the East Coast side.

    Now clearly owned by John Horgan, but beginning in April 2010 as Gordon Campbell’s arrogant, irresponsible (British Columbians no longer need the assurance of informed analyses from the BC Utilities Commission), boondoggle gift to British Columbians
    Site C’s theoretical output would be 1,100 MW (highly questionable because of the inherent, well-documented geological constraints of the project area’s fine-textured, unstable landscape). As you emphasize in your article above Norm, “Inertia is a powerful force, particularly when it facilitates lucrative employment.”

    The Scottish Moray Firth wind farm will be capable of outputting 882 MW, which is nearing 80% of Site C’s hypothetical output.
    882-MW Moray West offshore wind farm costs are pegged at about 41 GBP/MWh ~ $64 CAD/MWh. Current speculation (see Aug. 2022 link below) says Site C costs will likely be north of $120 per megawatt hour (MWh) — essentially twice that of the Scottish Moray Firth wind farm; which also comes without the unfathomable, long-lasting environmental/social damage/costs of Site C.

    August 2022 rational, educated opinion on Site C: “The Site C dam has become an albatross and a serious objective review is needed urgently”


    • Please note, the “August 2022” article link at the bottom should read “August 2020” (almost two years ago).


  4. While this post comments only on the financial value of wind electricity generation and how continuing Site C to completion will ultimately cost BC tax payers more in energy costs to their homes and businesses through BC Hydro, the greater concern to be addressed is the growing food insecurity all over the world caused by global warming generating extreme weather events resulting in droughts and floods and storms which are destroying or preventing crops from feeding people locally. This is causing displacement of people.

    Add to that wars and conflicts, and we have a looming disaster which drowning good food production land under the lake to be made by Site C dam will further the food insecurity of residents not only of BC but of Canada, as California will not be able to ship food to us much longer because of crop failures from drought.

    While wind is one logical way to generate energy, as the chart shows, we need to utilize several methods, including the newer ocean current/wave action, which BC is best suited to do because of geography. Those ocean currents are strong, and there are developments from other parts of the world which we could implement on our coasts – no need to re-invent the wheel!

    Meanwhile, stop site c and make use of the new roads and bridges to move a greater variety of crops to the lower part of the province as well as to the North as even now there is danger that the Fraser Valley might not be able to grow as much food as before after the flooding and soil contamination. The Peace Valley lands are there – do not flood them but use them to feed people! Re-deploy the dam workers to building much need housing.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. And the foundation of lies and misinformation may be the strongest part of the structure. It is definitely hard to get Hydro, the BCUC, or the government to push them aside. Meanwhile Hydro, having studied the site for 50 years, geotechnically speaking, is fighting a losing and very expensive battle trying to shore up their ongoing damn foundation plans.


  6. A foundation of lies. It so sad that most major projects in BC are anchored by a foundation of lies. The Broadway subway and the Expo line extension to Langley are mega projects that have been planned and are building on a foundation of lies.

    Sadly, this will be Horgan’s legacy a government based on a foundation of lies.


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