Fitzsimmons Creek Hydro, near Whistler, was one of the projects examined by KPMG.

Smaller clean energy projects could add $1.1 billion more to B.C.’s GDP than Site C mega-dam

There is an alternative to BC Hydro’s Site C megaproject that could generate more jobs and spread the benefits of infrastructure around the province, or so posits Clean Energy BC—a group that represents B.C.’s independent power producers—in a study released Monday.
A mix of a dozen smaller dams, wind farms and biomass plants could generate the same output of electricity (5,100 gigawatt hours, or enough to power under half a million average B.C. homes) as Site C. More, it would do so with greater economic benefits, more opportunities for First Nations participation in construction and operations, and while spread infrastructure spending around the province.
A greater number of independant power projects could “dramatically change the economic landscape of rural B.C. communities,” said Paul Kariya, executive director of Clean Energy BC, in a statement.
Over the course of construction, a portfolio of a dozen projects could add $4.3 billion to B.C’s GDP as compared to BC’s Hydro’s estimates of $2.2 billion for Site C, which would be largely concentrated in the Peace River Region. Once in operation, it would add $90 million a year to B.C.’s economy (compared to $7 million from Site C) according to estimates by KPMG, which crunched the numbers in the report. In sum, smaller projects would add 27,800 person-years in employment over 40 years, as compared to 6,400 from Site C.
Clean Energy BC has been keen to advocate independent power projects, as an alternative to BC Hydro’s $7.8-billion mega-dam, which has come under fire from First Nations groups and environmentalists for its outsized impact on the local landscape. The KPMG study, which examined 10 current projects, was the second such report in three weeks commissioned by the group.
But a decade after the government first moved to privatize parts of B.C.’s hydro energy sector, critics are still skeptical of locking a Crown corporation into expensive long-term contracts for energy that “it didn’t need,” or so writes Marvin Shaffer, an economist at the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, on its blog. “You would think that the fiasco,” he writes, “would have put that unfortunate policy on the back burner for a long time.”