The hotly debated Site C project is a necessity for the growing energy needs of British Columbia, according to BC Hydro’s draft 20 year integrated resource plan.
A public meeting regarding the draft plan, hosted in the Peace Region on Wednesday evening, is one of 13 throughout the province.
“We’ve got in this plan – the government has identified three Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) facilities that it’s planning towards,” said Randy Reimann, BC Hydro’s director of resource planning.
“Two of those have been included in this plan.
"Having said that, we've also identified the actions in our plan that we need to take with or without this LNG growth, in fact, Site C's needed whether or not LNG comes," he continued.
“Having said that, we’ve also identified the actions in our plan that we need to take with our without this LNG growth, in fact, Site C’s needed whether or not the LNG comes,” he continued.
Andrea Morison of the Peace Valley Environmental Association said that she was concerned with BC Hydro’s forecast for the future.
“BC Hydro is really basing their forecasted demand on supplying the liquid natural gas industry in particular, as well as the coal industry,” said Morison. “We all know how volatile the markets are for oil and gas.
“It just doesn’t make sense that BC Hydro’s courting LNG and getting involved in this volatile market with a Crown corporation,” she continued.
She noted that typically the oil and gas industry take their own risks.
“They benefit from the highs and they suffer from their lows,” she said
BC Hydro’s community relations manager, Dave Conway, noted that Site C is to meet the needs for domestic load demand.
“Domestic load demand is broken into three customer groups: industrial, commercial and residential,” said Conway.
If approved, the energy created through the proposed Site C project wouldn’t be available until 2021, he added.
“If it were to come on and be available with the energy and the capacity, then once the energy’s on the grid, it goes to where that energy’s needed,” he continued. “So some of it would certainly go to industrial customers and help meet that… but some of it will address the projection of a million person population growth in the province and the… building and retail that comes with that as well.”
If the Site C project is approved, Ken Boon stands to lose his house and property.
He noted that if LNG was not coming, he doesn’t believe B.C. would need the energy that will be supplied from the major project.
“If this LNG is actually going to go ahead, why would we be flooding northern valleys with farmland to ship gas overseas so that they can burn it for electricity?” questioned Boon. “Why aren’t we using that natural gas?
“It would save the northern valley; it would save making transmission lines all the way to the coast… burn the natural gas and power the LNG plants,” he continued. “It wouldn’t surprise me that they come to that realization sooner or later – hopefully sooner.”
Reimann noted that the B.C. Provincial Government’s Clean Energy Act requires that 93 per cent of electricity in the province be clean.
“This plan is largely based on clean energy resources backed up by gas, but I think there’s a view with some people that maybe more gas should be burnt,” he said.
Reimann said that he wasn’t sure how many emissions would be used in the creation of Site C.
“We haven’t done life-cycle costing on this, so no we don’t have an assessment of all the emissions or GHG’s (greenhouse gas) that would be produced, or have a comparison of the other projects,” he said.
He noted that there may be emissions from other clean energy sources as well. He pointed the metal used in wind turbines as an example.
“The main consideration for us when we think about the GHG’s and the climate change is that when you’re burning fossil fuels, there’s a lot of it; everything else kind of pales in comparison, so the main objective is limiting the amount of gas that we use,” said Reimann.
Gwen Johansson, a landowner in Hudson’s Hope, said she’s concerned that the BC Utilities Commission has been left out of the equation in terms of Site C.
“I think that every time that there is an opportunity (for someone) to have a look at (the project) with fresh eyes – it’s closed off,” she said. “I think my take away from this is that the one thing we must have – the ratepayers of B.C. must have the opportunity to have a hearing by an independent body to look at it and see where this is because it’s like this process exists in a world that’s separate from the information that’s coming from somewhere else and there’s no way to balance it.”
The previous two times that Site C was on the docket as a potential project, it was halted upon the recommendation from the BC Utilities Commission.
Lanny Lundquist of Grand Haven was concerned about the construction of the dam itself.
“Most dams in this country, in this world as I’ve understood were always built where the water would stay in their banks,” said Lundquist. “They have a big basin out here that’s just dirt.
“Now when this thing fills full of water, all that dirt’s going to slough and it’s going to wash down into the dam, and if it’s not going to just mess up the dam, they’re going to have to figure out how to pump it down the river and then it’ll be a big delta down the Peace River or something.”
One of the other major components in the integrated resource plan is the conservation of energy.
“The one thing that I always like to [do is] encouraging customers to use less electricity, so energy efficiency – or different ways of using, or consuming less electricity to do the same work,” said Reimann.
Power Smart is a BC Hydro incentive program that encourages customers to use less electricity.
Bob Gammer, the community relations manager for northern British Columbia, noted that there is incentive to keep consumption low through a two-step rate.
He also noted that they occasionally support “power smart product” promotions.
“In March and April this year, we put power smart products on sale so you could go to Home Depot or Home Hardware or Canadian Tire and you could buy LED light bulbs, which are a new technology,” said Gammer. They’re expensive, but you could get five or 10 or 15 dollars off per bulb.”
Boon noted that “net-metering” was missing from the integrated resource plan.
“You know people putting solar panels on their roof and feeding back and forth into the grid,” said Boon. “It exists, but it’s their best-kept secret – they’re not promoting it.”
Gammer explained that net metering is a system where customers are generating some kind of power on their property.
“They obviously use that power for their own needs, but if they have anything extra leftover, that surplus can be fed onto the grid and sold to BC Hydro,” he explained.
He noted the net difference would be seen as a credit on the customer’s bill, or a “much-reduced” bill from their overall consumption.
He noted that there is some cost to the customer, though he wasn’t sure exactly what it was. He noted that the cost of the energy source itself was the responsibility of the customer.
Boon said he believed that customers should be financially encouraged to participate in this program.
Integrated Review Plan
Reimann said that the plan presented in Fort St. John on Wednesday evening was two years in the making.
“This is Hydro’s 20-year plan of how we’re going to meet our future customers needs,” he said. “I guess what we’re really hoping is that people have a chance to see the plan and ask any questions they’d like.”
He said they BC Hydro team is stopping at 13 communities throughout the province.
There are forms available for people to fill out with their opinions and comments.
“We’re hoping that people complete our forms and submit them,” he said. “We want to hear what people’s views are, see what the sentiment in the province is.”
Gammer noted that Wednesday evening session was an open house. It was preceeded by an invitation-only stakeholder meeting earlier in the day.
“We had about 39 people on the list, and most of them did come out today, so we got some good input from key stakeholders and First Nations,” said Gammer.
Lundquist said he was curious what a stakeholder was.
“I asked them what the difference between stakeholders and the public was; they don’t seem to know, but they have different meetings for these people,” he said. “I don’t even know what they consider a stakeholder other than the general public who owns basically the Province and Hydro.”
Gammer said that stakeholders were selected based on people that BC Hydro has “ongoing” relationships with.
“The big picture look about where are we going to get our energy; how are we going to get our energy to serve the needs of British Columbia over the next 20 years,” explained Gammer. “We’re forecasting population growth of about one million people, so that’s a lot of power that’s going to be needed in the future.
“There’s three basic things, that is conservation, and so our power smart programs will be expanded, and things also outside of power smart like provincial building codes and other standards for new home construction and commercial building construction will go into effect and start to help everybody to conserve energy,” he said.
Boon said that he originally was interested in BC Hydro’s plans because of Site C. Since attending multiple meetings, he’s developed a keen interest in the energy sector over all.
“We’ve seen this process before and been involved in it,” he said. “It seems to me like kind of a backwards system.
“What they’re (BC Hydro) trying to do, to me, is an impossible task,” Boon continued. “They’re trying to chase political maneuvers from top down and it keeps changing on a monthly basis; those goalposts keep changing, and these guys are given the impossible task of trying to follow them.”