The B.C. Utilities Commission is telling BC Hydro it needs a lot more answers to complete its review of the Site C dam.

Released late Wednesday, the preliminary report says a panel of commissioners "has identified numerous areas of information gaps which require supplemental evidence and analysis from BC Hydro and/or the public in order to make definitive and conclusive findings."

BC Hydro says it has already spent $1.8 billion on construction for the hydroelectric dam planned for the Peace River, but Premier John Horgan's NDP government asked the commission to review the economic viability of the project after taking office.

Money seems to be the biggest point of contention in the report, which says there wasn't enough information to tell whether the hydroelectric dam is on track to meet its $8.3-billion budget, or what the cost would be to put the project on hold.

Cancelling the dam altogether and remediating the site, on the other hand, would cost about $1.1 billion — on top of costs already incurred.

But even here, the report says that more information is required to determine the cost of using alternative energy sources to replace the power the dam would have produced.

$1.8 billion spent to date

The commissioners wrote that they were concerned the money BC Hydro has already spent on the project, "might not accurately represent the spending that should have happened based on the project activities to date."

Further, "the panel is concerned that the $356 million contingency that has been allocated and committed to date represents 45 per cent of the planned $794-million contingency, two years into an eight-year project."

According to the commission's report, the project is currently on track to begin producing power as planned in November 2024, but that could change if diversion of the Peace River is delayed — something that would also affect the budget.

BC Hydro's Site C

An illustration of B.C. Hydro's proposed "Site C" dam project (BC Hydro)

The commission considered submissions from Hydro and the auditing firm Deloitte LLP before completing the report.

Hydro's 866-page submission to the commission says completing the dam as planned would still be best for ratepayers and terminating the project would cost $7.3 billion on a present-value basis.

The submission says demand for electricity is growing and without the dam, the province would hit an energy shortfall by 2031.

Deloitte concluded that putting the project on hold until 2025 would cost about $1.4 billion, while cancelling it would cost $1.2 billion.

The Deloitte report says that the dam's construction faces major risks including contractor performance problems, unforeseen geotechnical conditions and cost issues related to major contracts that haven't been awarded yet.

With files from the Canadian Press