British Columbia

Scrapping Site C and developing wind and solar could save billions, analyst says

Robert McCullough, hired by the Peace Valley Landowners Association — which opposes the dam — presented his findings Friday at a hearing to review the project held by the B.C. Utilities Commission in Vancouver.

Says B.C. doesn't need all Site C's power, other options cheaper, export market will not materialize

An analyst hired by Site C's opponents argues money would be saved by purchasing wind and other renewable energy and scrapping Site C. (Christer Waara/CBC)

Scrapping the Site C Dam project and aggressively pursuing wind power could save B.C. between $2 and $4.4 billion according to an energy analyst hired by the Peace Valley Landowners Association, which opposes the project.

Robert McCullough presented his findings Friday at a Vancouver hearing held by the B.C. Utilities Commission in Vancouver to review the project.

He concluded that BC Hydro's thinking around Site C doesn't reflect today's realities.

"Time has moved on," he said. "These huge megadams take too long to construct. They're expensive to build, and you have to plan them a decade in advance.

"The competition is cheaper. It's a lot less risky, and you only have to order them a year or two in advance. The economics have changed."

While McCullough's figure of $2 and $4.4 billion comes from a scenario of pursuing only wind power, he says further savings could be achieved by adding solar and geothermal to the mix.

Analyst says look at Washington State

A BC Hydro spokesperson says the province needs Site C to meet an anticipated 40 percent increase in electricity demand over the next 20 years.

But McCullough says that BC Hydro has routinely overestimated energy demand, and current estimates are off by 30 percent.

"They were assuming the LNG sector was going to explode, but as we know, the LNG sector is not exploding," he said, adding that the pulp and paper sector's energy demands are also declining because of lower newsprint production.

He says BC Hydro's case also does not reflect the decreasing price for wind and solar energy. He says over the last five years, wind production costs have gone down 60 per cent and solar even further.

"BC Hydro assumes that technology already in place and working Washington [State] wouldn't work in British Columbia.

"This is simply amusing: it's the same society, the same terrain, the same weather — usually bad."

McCullough says cheaper energy in the U.S. means BC Hydro won't have much of an export market for Site C power, either.

He is scheduled to appear before the BCUC again on Saturday.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Liam Britten

Digital journalist

Liam Britten is an award-winning journalist for CBC Vancouver. You can contact him at liam.britten@cbc.ca or follow him on Twitter: @liam_britten.

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