Last week, the BC Utilities Commission (BCUC) published a report that stated it is unlikely B.C. will need the energy from the Site C dam, calling previous projections “excessively optimistic” while also stating that it is possible that demand might be lower than the lowest demand scenario used by BC Hydro. Additionally, it is unlikely the Site C project will be on time or on budget.
As the BCUC pointed out, the Burrard Thermal plant in Port Moody could “be refurbished as an important strategic asset for BC Hydro” — a plant that can provide equivalent dispatchable energy capacity to Site C.
Burrard Thermal plant is a relatively clean-burning, gas-powered generating station that costs only $20 million a year to operate, much less than the $55 million annually for a private gas plant the province currently uses on Vancouver island — a plant that produces less electrical capacity, is less reliable (particularly for the lower mainland) and is more polluting. It seems hypocritical that B.C. cannot use a clean-burning power plant for backup because it burns natural gas when some critics argue the only reason for the Site C dam is to power the LNG or fracking industry.
Many people were worried that the BCUC report would be too narrow in scope for a project with such a complex array of economic, environmental and human rights issues. But the report hints at the human rights costs of displacing the peoples of the Treaty 8 Nations and flooding their sacred sites.
There are many short-term jobs associated with this project and no one wants people to be unemployed. At the BCUC hearings, contrary to expectations of the issues they would address, activists from the Sierra Club spoke about how the money saved from stopping this “boondoggle” should go to training workers into sustainable energy or other industries that provide more long-term job stability. Additionally, a 2016 report from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives outlined how a major push for public and private retrofitting and transit expansion could create thousands of long-term, well-paying jobs while at the same time promoting the cheapest form of energy: energy conservation.
Now is not the time for an outdated project that was not even favourable in the 1980s; now is the time for bold new ideas and industries that do not infringe on human rights or destroy our future food security (researchers from UBC argue that the dam would destroy prime agricultural land).
And just in case we do need a little more energy from time to time, why not have the clean, reliable Burrard Thermal on standby
Amy Lubik, Port Moody