Massive British Columbia hydro project gets key approval

British Columbia Premier Christy Clark said Dec. 16 that the Canadian province has approved the 1,100-MW Site C Clean Energy Project, concluding it will provide British Columbia with the most affordable, reliable clean power for over 100 years.

B.C.’s population and economy are growing, and the demand for power is expected to increase by 40% over the next 20 years. Site C will be required even with BC Hydro’s ambitious Power Smart programs that are targeted to meet 78% of future electricity growth.

“British Columbia has the third-lowest electricity rates in North America and we need to meet our future needs in a way that keeps rates down,” said Bill Bennett, the provincial Minister of Energy and Mines. “It’s clear that to keep rates low, we must choose the option of building Site C.”

As the third project on the Peace River, the firm energy it provides will support the development of more independent power projects (IPPs) by backing-up intermittent resources, such as wind. IPPs currently provide 25% of B.C.’s electricity and will continue to play a vital role in meeting the province’s energy needs.

“Site C is essential to keeping the lights on while maintaining low rates for our customers,” said Jessica McDonald, president and CEO of BC Hydro. “This project will build on the success of our existing hydroelectric system and benefit British Columbians for generations to come.”

The capital-cost estimate for the project has been updated to C$8.335bn, and government has also established a project reserve of an additional C$440m to account for events outside of BC Hydro’s control that could occur over an eight-year construction period, such as higher than forecast inflation or interest rates, for a total of up to C$8.775bn. The reserve is subject to provincial Treasury Board approval.

The project, which has undergone a thorough and independent multi-year environmental assessment process, will start construction in summer 2015 and will provide approximately 10,000 direct construction jobs. Project completion is expected in 2024.

The Association for Mineral Exploration British Columbia (AME BC) on Dec. 16 applauded the provincial government’s decision to proceed with this project.

“Today, I thank Premier Christy Clark and Energy and Mines Minister Bill Bennett for their leadership on the decision to proceed with construction of Site C,” said Gavin C. Dirom, President and CEO of AME BC. “The Site C project will ensure that mineral development projects throughout the province will have a reliable supply of clean hydroelectric power for generations to come. Ten potential mines in northwestern British Columbia, for example, would require 328 megawatts of electricity – a demand equivalent to approximately four per cent of the total electricity capacity of the province.”

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.