Site C – The Dam of Self Sufficiency?

Rumours about a revamped Site C proposal seem like a deja-vu.

BC Hydro is once again trying to pave the pathway for the controversial Site C hydroelectric dam up in the Peace region of northern BC. They claim that this energy project will help lead our province towards energy self-sufficiency.

But will it?

The decision to go ahead with SiteC is ultimately one of cabinet, but the BC Liberals aren’t too keen to engage in public discussion quite yet. Rumour has it government cancelled BC Hydro’s presentation of its 20 year energy plan last week because of Site C.

Are BC Hydro and the BC government hoping that the tumultuous history of Site C will be forgotten given enough time?

The BC Liberals have every right to be anxious about BC Hydro’s communications on Site C seeing that it has encountered massive opposition in the past.

Dusting off the decades old previously rejected proposal means that much consultation will need to take place before the project can move forward.

However, the communities involved aren’t too reassured by the promise of discussion, seeing that they are still dealing with the adverse environmental and social impacts that resulted from the WAC Bennett Dam (completed in 1967). Dealing with dam related issues post-hoc hasn’t worked yet, and is one of the the causes of hostile relations between FirstNations and Hydro in the North.

The government owned utility is preparing the stage for more formal debate in reintroducing this Site C energy project. They have been quoted assaying,

The next phase involves dusting off the engineering studies, doing new environmental work and doing a massive stakeholder consultation and first nations consultation, both in the Peace and around the province.”

But why are the Liberals thus whispering “hush, hush”.

The last thing the Liberals want is for Hydro to pitch Site C into B.C.’s highly charged political arena, when the public is scarcely aware of the need for the project,” says Vaughn Palmer of the Vancouver Sun.

In light of the recent debacle of the Duke Point gas fired power generation,BC Hydro claims it is searching for new energy projects that will help meet the rising demand of our province’s energy needs.

Minister of Energy, Robert Neufeld, argues that BC is a “net importer” in energy, and therefore, revisiting the potential for a hydro electric dam atSite C (which would be the third dam constructed on the Peace River)will put BC on the path towards energy self-sufficiency.

But it is misleading for Neufeld to describe the intentions of this government owned utility as primarily energy self-sufficiency.

It is not BC’s rising domestic energy consumption that demands to be satisfied, but rather the generation of revenue for the BC government (who rely on selling our power for cash) that needs to be met.

BC is a “net importer” of electricity when it comes to the bottom line only because we engage heavily in selling power to the US.

As we’ve noted before on the subject of needing new power:

Analysis conducted by experts at the GSX Coalition during the hearings into GSX and the Vancouver Island Generation Project showed that British Columbia still has lots of power, but they want new mega-projects like Duke Point or Site C to create displacement generation to free up power for sale into markets.”

Don’t befooled when the BC Liberals try to pitch Site C on energy security grounds. Don’t believe it when/if they try to convince British Columbians of the “need” for the project.

We have been down that road on Duke Point.

The government’s plans for hydro on Vancouver Island didn’t stand up to public scrutiny, it’s doubtful the Site C proposal will either.

Haven’t they learned already that more dams and energy projects are not what the communities of BC want? Where is the discussion on energy efficiency?

The SiteC debate feels like dj vu, with history repeating itself once again. Let’s make sure they story ends the same way this time-with a Site C dam not receiving approval.

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