Industry group advocates alternative to Site C dam proposal

Clean Energy B.C. | BCBusiness

As the province mulls its decision on the proposed $8-billion Site C dam, a group of independent power producers have advocated a multitude of smaller clean energy projects as a cheaper alternative

Clean Energy B.C., an industry organization representing B.C.’s private sector electricity providers, believes it has a cheaper alternative to the Site C dam: multiple, smaller clean energy projects, or so it argues in a report released Friday.
Published on the opening day of Clean Energy B.C.’s annual conference, the report argues that over the 70-year life span of the Site C Dam, the government could save between $750 million and $1 billion by spending on multiple clean energy projects—mostly private hydro, but biomass and wind projects as well.
“An incremental approach to building electricity supply is far more prudent than committing today to hit the power switch on ten years from now on one mega-project,” said Clean Energy B.C.’s executive director Paul Kariya in his keynote.
Among the advantages of pursuing multiple projects: the ability to adapt procurement to reflect shifting demand for electricity, more opportunities for First Nations participation, and the flexibility to take advantage of developments in clean energy technology, such as the fall in the cost of wind turbines—29 per cent since 2008, according to the organization.
But skeptics say that awarding contracts to independent power producers (IPPs)—a smaller-scale private sector alternative to BC Hydro enabled by the government of former premier Gordon Campbell—over investing $7.8 billion in BC Hydro’s Site C project could have costly consequences for ratepayers.
“You would think that the fiasco of the government forcing BC Hydro in recent years to buy run-of-river and other IPP supply that it didn’t need, resulting in losses of hundreds of millions of dollars per year, would have put that unfortunate policy on the back burner for a long time,” writes Marc Schaeffer, an economist, on the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternative’s blog.