Site C dam: The wrong choice for BC’s energy future

Imagine you had to make a choice between two options and your decision would impact the entire province’s future for the next one hundred years.

BC could miss out on the solar energy revolution by pursuing Site C.

In the first scenario, major investments have been made in developing low-impact solar, geothermal and wind power technologies in communities across BC. Thousands of people are employed in every region with long term jobs in the renewable energy industry that are located close to where they live. The province is known as a leader worldwide for innovation in these technologies and the positive spinoffs of these booming industries are visible in many corners of the economy.

Efficiency of power use is maximized because electricity is generated in close proximity to the people using it. Investments have been made in building efficiency upgrades. It is the job of BC Hydro to engage the public with energy conservation programs and pursue the cheapest sources of renewable power.

Because of this, people are able to access the electricity they need at an affordable price.

In the second scenario, the government has placed all its eggs in the basket of one enormous energy project. To pay for the project, electricity users have been forced to face alarming rate hikes every year. Many people on low incomes have been evicted or had their electricity turned off because they could not pay their hydro bills. Demand for power in BC has remained flat and so BC Hydro has been forced to sell this expensive surplus power at a huge loss. Massive project cost overruns to the tune of billions are close to forcing the government to bail out the debt-stricken BC Hydro, passing an enormous financial burden onto taxpayers.

By locking the province into this one costly project, the government and BC Hydro have no money left to support innovation in solar, wind or geothermal energy. Private investment in these industries has therefore left the province. Rural communities across the province are reliant on outside sources for their energy and have few economic development opportunities in this regard. Energy jobs continue to require people to travel long distances for work and continue to follow a boom and bust cycle.

The burden of paying for this expensive project and its expensive power make life increasingly unaffordable for British Columbians.

These possibilities are what’s at stake in the BC government’s decision on the Site C dam.

British Columbians cannot afford the cost of choosing Scenario #2.

BC is at a crossroads. Right now, the British Columbia Utilities Commission (BCUC) is finally reviewing the cost of Site C. In our submission to the BCUC, we said Site C should be cancelled because this cost is far too onerous.  Now is our opportunity to pursue a different path.

Not only will British Columbians be hurt by this huge financial burden and the opportunity cost of losing out on renewable energy opportunities, the social and environmental costs are devastating. The loss of prime farmland in a time of rising food insecurity, critical wildlife corridors and BC’s relationship with Indigenous peoples are also at stake.

The Site C mega-dam represents planning at its worst. Let’s take this opportunity to cut our losses and make a better plan to enter the 21st century post-carbon economy.

Please join us in calling on BC’s Cabinet ministers to make the right decision and cancel Site C.

Because we will all have to live with the impacts of this decision for generations to come.