Energy economist Marvin Shaffer and energy lawyer Jim Quail issue reports calling completion of BC Hydro Site C dam project the best choice for ratepayers

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

The BC New Democrat government should complete BC Hydro’s Site C dam project say two of British Columbia’s leading energy experts – economist Marvin Shaffer and lawyer Jim Quail – who both reject many of the assumptions and conclusions of the BC Utilities Commission final report.

Both released their own reports Wednesday detailing serious problems with the BC Utilities Commission final report released earlier in November, calling into question its assumptions and conclusions about the viability of Site C versus alternative energy sources. Both reports were commissioned by the Allied Hydro Council of BC, which has represented unionized BC Hydro dam construction workers since 1961.

Quail and Shaffer both argue Site C should be completed to best serve BC Hydro ratepayers given the $2 billion already invested and estimated $2 billion remediation cost if cancelled – “$4 billion spent in return for nothing,” Quail says.

“Is it worth eating billions that will have to be collected through our Hydro bills to demolish the project and start over with a search for alternatives? That is what the issue boils down to. We say that when it comes to the economic dimensions of the issue, it’s not a close call at all,” writes Quail. “Finishing the project is the hands-down winner.”

And Shaffer comes to a similar conclusion, writing:

“Unless the government takes the position that Site C should be abandoned now and forever for environmental, First Nations or other such reasons, the best course of action at this time is to continue to complete the project, taking whatever steps are necessary to minimize remaining costs, maximize the value of the surplus Site C will inevitably produce and address as best as possible the issues that First Nations and local residents have in respect of the unavoidable impacts the project will have.”

Both reports agree that the previous BC Liberal government should have submitted Site C for a full review by the BCUC years ago instead of beginning construction – but point out that is no longer the question, with $2 billion already spent on construction to date and another estimated $2 billion required to return Site C to its original state if cancelled.

Quail and Shaffer both state that if Site C is cancelled, the $4 billion cost cannot be amortized over a long period of time that the BCUC report claims could be up 70 years – instead the two energy experts say will need to be recovered from ratepayers or taxpayers within a few short years.

And both say that the BCUC report seriously underestimates the cost and even viability of the “alternative portfolio” – solar, wind and geothermal power – that would be needed to supply the energy lost if Site C were to be cancelled.

Shaffer strongly rejects the BCUC conclusion that the costs of completing Site C or pursuing alternatives are both roughly the same.

Shaffer writes: “It is important to note, however, that BCUC reached this conclusion based on a manifestly unbalanced set of assumption and an incomplete assessment of costs for its alternative portfolio.”

Last week Lorne Sivertson, the former Columbia Power Corporation CEO, also issued a report outlining fundamental flaws in the BCUC report.

“The apparent lack of understanding by BCUC just doesn’t make sense when it comes to an enormous amount of actual dollars and cents,” Sivertson said last week in reaching similar conclusions to Shaffer and Quail.

Chris Feller – president of the Allied Hydro Council of BC, said the reports from Shaffer and Quail make it clear that the right decision for the BC NDP government is to complete Site C and not spend $4 billion or more for nothing.

“The new BC NDP government has been left a disturbing legacy by the former BC Liberal government but now it has to make the best of it,” Feller said.

“And that means completion of Site C and ensuring that local workers, businesses, First Nations and women are employed in construction, that large numbers of apprentices are trained and nearby communities benefit,” Feller says.

“The Allied Hydro Council of BC believes that the need for the clean, green hydroelectric power Site C can provide will only grow exponentially as coal is phased out, electric vehicle use expands dramatically and the Paris Climate Accord is implemented,” Feller says.

“Let’s complete Site C, do everything possible to mitigate negative effects that and use that clean green power to fight climate change.”

For More Information: 

Bill Tieleman, West Star Communications, cell 778-896-0964.

Jim Quail - Commentary on the BCUC Final Report on Site C.pdf553.97 KB
Marvin Shaffer - Commentary on the BCUC Final Report on Site C.pdf193.1 KB

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