Premier John Horgan’s cabinet intends to make a decision on whether to continue building the most expensive construction project in B.C. history by the end of 2017.
The B.C. Utilities Commission released its independent report on the project Wednesday, ordered by Horgan to fulfil a promise he has repeated many times since becoming NDP leader.
The BCUC report questions whether Site C can make its 2024 completion date, and concludes the cost “may” exceed $10 billion. It describes the option of suspending work and restarting it in 2024 as the “least attractive of the three scenarios” set out by the government.
Energy Minister Michelle Mungall said Wednesday the report is technical and requires further study, but one thing that is clear is that delaying Site C is not an option that would protect B.C. Hydro ratepayers from unnecessary rate increases.
In the legislature Wednesday, Peace River South MLA Mike Bernier called on the government to make a decision within a month, to provide certainty to the people working at Site C. Eight years of study done under the B.C. Liberal government, and court decisions saying consultation with affected people was adequate, mean no further delay is needed, Bernier said.
Green Party leader Andrew Weaver said the report “should be viewed as the final nail in the coffin of Site C,” due to potential cost overruns and the B.C. Liberal government’s rush to secure fixed-term electricity supply to liquefied natural gas projects.
“The one issue of concern” is the transfer of the $4 billion cost of scrapping Site C to be added to the provincial debt, Weaver said.
Horgan’s government instructed BCUC to come up with cost estimates for completing the dam, pausing construction for a more thorough review of alternatives and future electricity demand, or stopping it and restoring the project area.
The report estimates the cost of shutting down Site C and remediating the project area to be $1.8 billion, plus the cost of finding alternative energy sources to meet demand, on top of the $2 billion already spent.
“The suspension and restart scenario adds at least an additional $3.6 billion to final costs and is by far the most expensive of the three scenarios,” the report states.
The BCUC panel also concluded that “increasingly viable alternative energy sources such as wind, geothermal and industrial curtailment could provide similar benefits to ratepayers as the Site C project with an equal or lower unit energy cost.”
Horgan said Tuesday that one more round of consultation with area Indigenous communities will be conducted next by Indigenous Relations Minister Scott Fraser, and then cabinet will consider its options.
B.C. Hydro has already awarded the major contracts for the powerhouse, river diversion and main civil works in the riverbed.