(1) 250.472.8528
andrew.weaver.mla@leg.bc.ca

Not too late to change course on Site C dam

Since becoming an MLA I have visited the proposed location of the Site C dam on the Peace River twice. Most recently, on Aug. 23, I travelled a section of the river with a group of concerned community members. It’s hard to fathom the scale of planned development unless you see it in person, just as it’s hard to grasp the human and cultural cost of this project until you listen to the people caught in the middle of it.

Dam construction would flood more than 5,000 hectares of land – drowning homes, traditional lands, scores of culturally important sites, and 15,985 acres of agricultural land.

Local and indigenous people in the area are being systematically stripped of their livelihood and culture by one arm of government, while receiving apologies for past injustices and promises of reconciliation from another.

Compounding the environmental, historical, cultural and agricultural damages is a reckless disregard of energy economics.

Since 2005, domestic demand for electricity in B.C. has been essentially flat, but over the next 20 years BC Hydro forecasts our energy needs will increase by about 40 per cent as a consequence of both population and economic growth. They are selling Site C as the solution to this growing electricity demand, but their argument doesn’t hold water.

Upon completion, the dam would produce 1,100 MW (megawatts, i.e. millions of Watts) of power capacity and up to 5,100 GWh (gigawatt hours, i.e. billions of watt hours) of electricity each year.

Currently only about 1.5 per cent of B.C.’s electricity production is supplied by wind energy (compared to roughly 20 per cent in P.E.I.). With our mountainous terrain and coastal boundary, the potential for both onshore and offshore wind power production is enormous. The Canadian Wind Energy Association and the BC Hydro Integrated Resource Plan 2013 indicate that 5,100 GWh of wind-generated electricity could be produced in B.C. for about the same price as the electricity to be produced by the Site C dam.

A report by the Canadian Geothermal Energy Association noted B.C. also has substantial untapped potential for firm, on demand, geothermal power which could be developed where power is needed.

While costs associated with Site C will be borne by provincial taxpayers (a price tag that will eventually be much more than BC Hydro’s estimate of roughly $9 billion), solar, wind and geothermal project risks are covered by industry.  Alternative sources coupled with existing dams could provide enough energy to meet the needs of British Columbians, with the potential to scale up as needed. They would also provide better economic opportunities to local communities and First Nations across the province, with lower impacts on traditional territories.

Instead of a diversified approach to renewable energy, the B.C. government is pushing Site C because they want to offer LNG proponents access to firm power. As I have been explaining for years, however, there will be no B.C. LNG industry in the foreseeable future because of a global glut in natural gas and plummeting prices for imported LNG in Asia. As the government desperately doubles down on LNG, renewable projects are moving elsewhere. Just this year they let a $750 million US investment to build wind capacity on Vancouver Island slip away, despite buy-in from five First Nations, TimberWest, EDP Renewables and the Canadian Wind Energy Association.

I wanted to see how much has been done when I visited Site C this summer. Nothing has passed a point of no return. Proceeding with Site C is actively driving clean energy investment out of the province, but it is not too late to correct our province’s power trajectory.

Climate Action Announcement Definitely Not Leadership

Media Statement – August 19, 2016
Climate Action Announcement Definitely Not Leadership
For immediate release

Victoria B.C. – Andrew Weaver, MLA for Oak Bay – Gordon Head and leader of the B.C. Green Party calls the B.C. Government Climate Action announcement disappointing and lacking leadership.

“Not only has the Clark government dismantled many of the existing climate policies, but they are also ignoring key recommendations from their own expert panel on what needs to happen for B.C. to once again become a climate leader.

“For the past few years it has become painfully clear that the B.C. Liberals have chosen to forgo any leadership on this file, instead choosing to chase the LNG pipedream.

“As we go into another year with temperature records again being smashed across the world and in B.C., this government is content to fiddle and play games with carbon accounting. Without increasing the carbon levy there is no hope that British Columbia will meet its GHG reduction targets.

“For fifteenth consecutive month in a row, July 2016 emerged as the warmest month since measurements have been collected. Average global temperatures for the year-to-date period January-July 2016 shattered the previous record set in 2015. The government’s plan doesn’t demonstrate leadership. It demonstrates complacency and a wilful disregard of the urgency of dealing with climate change.

“British Columbia has an opportunity to become a leader in this world, establishing a 21st century economy built on innovation and clean technology. This goal cannot be realized with the current administration’s directionless approach to governance.

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Backgrounder – Changes since Christy Clark became Premier

Under Premier Gordon Campbell, British Columbia emerged as an international leader in climate policy. But since Christy Clark has taken over at the helm, we’ve move from being a leader to becoming a laggard. The legacy of Premier Clark’s so-called climate leadership to date is as follows:

  1. The Clean Energy Act was amended to exclude emissions for liquefaction in LNG industry;
  2. The Pacific Carbon Trust was shut down;
  3. Carbon tax increase were halted;
  4. Cap and Trade enabling legislation (designed to bring big point source emitters in with California) has been repealed;
  5. We have a new Greenhouse Gas Industrial Reporting and Control Act that introduces an “emissions intensity” framework that is more about supporting an LNG industry than limiting emissions;
  6. The LiveSmart BC program has essentially shut down;
  7. Emissions have gone up year after year;
  8. We will not reach our legislated 2020 GHG reduction target.

Media contact
Mat Wright – Press Secretary, Andrew Weaver MLA
1 250 216 3382
mat.wright@leg.bc.ca

Eleven Days & Counting: Hunger Strike Against Site C

IMG_20160323_122727Today I was in Vancouver meeting with a number of business leaders in British Columbia’s creative economy. My colleague Matt Toner (Deputy Leader of the BC Green Party) and I took the opportunity to visit with opponents of the proposed Site C dam who were camped out in front of BC Hydro’s downtown Vancouver headquarters.  It quickly became apparent to me that what is happening there qualifies as perhaps the most under-reported story of 2016.

Those who have been following my work over the last few years will know that I have frequently spoken out against the reckless disregard of energy economics exhibited by the BC Liberals.

IMG_20160323_122610Whether it be the fiscal folly of moving forward with Site C, the risking of British Columbia’s triple-A credit rating, or the lost opportunities arising from proceeding with Site C (including geothermal or wind), I have been arguing for almost three years now that proceeding with Site C makes no economic sense.

Let’s be clear. The BC Liberals are moving forward with the construction of the Site C dam exclusively because they want to ensure that LNG proponents have access to firm power so that they might use electricity-driven compressors in their liquefaction process (the so-called “cleanest LNG in the world”). For example, on November 4, 2014, BC Hydro and LNG Canada signed a power agreement that ensured taxpayer-subsidized power for the LNG industry in BC. But of course, as I have been pointing out for more than three years now, there will be no LNG industry anytime soon in BC due to the global glut in natural gas and plummeting prices for landed LNG in Asia.

HC_HungerStrike9As the BC Government strives to “Get to Yes” on an electricity generation project that no longer has any buyers, they have turned to Alberta. Yet Alberta has said they are not interested in buying BC’s excess electricity and the Trudeau government pointedly excluded funding for BC-to-Alberta transmission line infrastructure in the 2016 budget.

While the shenanigans of our political leaders in British Columbia play out, a remarkable young woman, Kristen Henry, has stepped up to draw attention to the negative consequences of moving forward with Site C.

HC_HungerStrike4

I had the distinct honour of meeting with Kristin today. Kristin is in the 11th day of a hunger strike against the Site C dam. Stop and think about this for a minute. Can you imagine eleven days without food? Have you heard about this in the local media? I suspect not.

Kristin is an articulate, passionate and highly educated young woman who has literally put her life on the line in an attempt to draw attention to the reckless folly of proceeding with Site C.  She is extremely concerned about Site C’s violation of indigenous treaty rights, its effect on food security, and its reckless economics. While the mainstream media may not have drawn attention to her remarkable achievements, rest assured, her efforts have had a profound impact on me.

HC_HungerStrike6    HC_HungerStrike7

Calling for a halt to Site C activities

Media Release: February 18, 2016
Andrew Weaver calls for a halt to Site C activities
For Immediate Release

Victoria, B.C. – Citing significant risk to taxpayers and the provincial economy, Andrew Weaver, Leader of the B.C. Green Party and MLA for Oak Bay-Gordon Head, is calling for an absolute halt to Site C activities until the Auditor General’s report is completed.

“What do I think of Site C?,” says Weaver “It is risky and foolish. British Columbians are going to be paying for this project for decades, for a project that, in the absence of a vastly expanded LNG industry, we simply don’t need.”

On Monday B.C. Hydro will be in Vancouver seeking an injunction to remove a protest camp that has been set up by First Nations and landowners on the bank of the Peace River.

“Site C is a project that has been pushed forward from day one with exemptions on oversight every step of the way,” says Weaver. “The government has done everything it can to push aside dissent without reasonable justification. This latest move by B.C. Hydro is just another example of this approach.”

“Site C should have been subject to the B.C. Utilities Commision, but the government felt it would slow down their political agenda too much,” says Weaver.“I couldn’t agree more with former B.C. Hydro CEO Marc Eliesen in that due diligence is absolutely needed with a project of this magnitude. It’s simply reckless to proceed in this manner.”

Weaver warns that proceeding with Site C is also actively driving clean energy investment out of the province.

“Just two weeks ago the Canadian Wind Energy Association announced it was closing its office and leaving the province because the government and B.C. Hydro are just not interested,” says Weaver. “This mirrors a trend we saw last year with EDP Renewables – no interest from government for a roughly one billion dollar wind-power investment off Southern Vancouver Island, so the company walked.”

“Rather than let the market take the risk for energy infrastructure projects, this government is using billions of taxpayer dollars to get Site C ‘past the point of no return’. It’s a project that was dreamt up to support the pipedream of LNG. Now it’s a project without a home, and all we’ve seen is the cost go up and up while other opportunities vanish.”

Today in his response to the budget, Weaver elaborated on his fiscal concerns about Site C.

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Media Contact

Mat Wright – Press Secretary Andrew Weaver MLA
1 250 216 3382
mat.wright@leg.bc.ca

Debating a Motion on the Merits of Site C

Today in the Legislature, we debated the merits of the Site C project. The motion brought forward for debate by Bill Bennett, the Minister of Energy and Mines, was as follows:

Be it resolved that this House supports the construction of the Site C Clean Energy Project; because the Site C Clean Energy Project represents the most affordable way to generate 1,100 megawatts of clean and reliable power; and the Site C Clean Energy Project will create jobs for thousands of British Columbians; and the Site C Clean Energy Project has been the subject of a thorough environmental review process.

I’ve written extensively on this topic over the years and so spoke strongly against the motion. Please consider reading my rationale for taking this position.


Text of my Speech


On April the 19th of 2010, I, along with numerous others, travelled to Hudson’s Hope to hear then Premier Gordon Campbell announce the Site C project was moving to the environmental assessment stage. A lot has changed since 2010, and the environmental assessment has now been completed.

The joint review panel’s report published on May  8th, 2014, identified major obstacles in the path for approval. While the report did not emphatically say yes or no to the project, certain sections highlighted the permanent damage to the environment, farmland and wildlife the project would have. These included effects on First Nation rights and lack of exploration of similar cost renewable energy alternatives.

I’ve been pointing out for several years now that Site C is the wrong project at the wrong time when alternative energy, including geothermal, wind, tidal and small-scale hydro sources, coupled with existing dams would provide substantially improved firm energy and capacity. This approach would be less damaging to the environment and distributed around British Columbia. It would provide future power requirements with better costs and employment opportunities. Geothermal, wind, tidal and smaller hydro projects would deal substantial economic benefit to communities, especially First Nations.

The joint review panel specifically concluded the following.

On the environment and wildlife:

(1) “the project would cause significant adverse effects on fish and fish habitat”;

(2) “significant adverse effects on wetlands, valley bottom wetlands”;

(3) “the project would likely cause significant adverse effects to migratory birds relying on valley bottom habitat during their life cycle, and these losses would be permanent and cannot be mitigated”.

On the topic of renewables:

They said this:

“The scale of the project means that if built on B.C. Hydro’s timetable, substantial financial losses would accrue for several years, accentuating the intergenerational pay-now, benefit-later effect. Energy conservation and end-user efficiencies have not been pressed as hard as possible in B.C. Hydro’s analyses. There are alternative sources of power available at similar or somewhat higher costs, notably geothermal power. These sources, being individually smaller than Site C, would allow supply to better follow demand, obviating most of the early year losses of Site C. Beyond that, the policy constraints that the B.C. government has imposed on B.C. Hydro have made some other alternatives unavailable.”

Regarding First Nations:

The panel said this.

(1) The panel “concludes that the project would likely cause a significant adverse effect on fishing opportunities and practices for the First Nations represented by Treaty 8 Tribal Association, Saulteau First Nations and Blueberry First Nations and that these effects cannot be mitigated”;

(2) the panel “concludes that the project would likely cause a significant adverse effect on hunting and non-tenured trapping represented by the Treaty 8 Tribal Association and Saulteau First Nations and that these effects cannot be mitigated”;

(3) “the project would likely cause a significant adverse effect on other traditional uses of the land for the First Nations represented by Treaty 8 Tribal Association and that some of the effects cannot be mitigated”;

(4) “the project would likely cause significant adverse cumulative effects on current use of lands and resources for traditional purposes”.

In 2010, the projected construction costs for the dam was $6.6 billion. But by May of 2011, that cost had increased to $7 9 billion — a 20 percent increase. By 2014, it rose a further 11 percent to $8.8 billion.

Now, there’s considerable upside uncertainty regarding these costs that could easily reach $10 billion, $12 billion, $15 billion or even more frankly. Just yesterday, we found out that more delays and cost overruns are occurring in Nalcor Energy’s Muskrat Falls hydro project in Labrador.

Nalcor Energy’s CEO, Ed Martin, cited three reasons for the cost overruns.

  1. he said: “It’s a tough, tight marketplace right now.”
  2. he said: “What we’re seeing in these bids when they come in is they’re higher, much higher, than we have budgeted for.”
  3. he said: “What we’re doing is experiencing cost increases we really can’t control in that area.”

Now, I have little confidence in the cost forecasts for the construction of Site C, as it won’t be completed for many, many years. I share the desire of the government to see British Columbia’s economy managed in a way that ensures a sustainable approach that is not burdening future generations with the cost of decisions we make today.

In the past, our government has, appropriately, celebrated the fact that British Columbia has maintained a triple-A credit rating. Having the taxpayer take on an almost $9 billion-and-growing debt to subsidize this government’s efforts to chase the pot of gold at the end of the LNG rainbow strikes me as profoundly irresponsible for the supposedly fiscally conservative B.C. Liberals. Risking a potential downgrade of our triple-A credit rating would risk raising the costs of servicing all of our provincial debt.

Now, I recognize that as the population grows and the economy in British Columbia also grows, so too does our need for energy. But the Site C project has grown increasingly indefensible from a social, environmental and economic standpoint. This proves especially true when weighed against more practical alternatives.

The impacts of the project are widespread. Thousands of acres of farmland and wilderness will be flooded, doing irreparable damage to ecosystems. The hunting and fishing and traditions of First Nations who live in and around these lands will be threatened. Billions of dollars will be spent on the project, raising concerns over British Columbia’s economic viability and triple-A credit rating. All of these staggering realities might be forgiven if Site C was the only realistic solution. It’s not, and I’m not the only one who realizes this.

There are many alternatives that are cheaper to build and maintain, have minimal environmental footprints and generate more permanent jobs that are spread throughout the province. Chief among these options are wind and geothermal power.

The claim that Site C dam is the most affordable way to generate power is absolutely untrue. Recently for example, the Peace Valley Landowner Association commissioned an independent report from the U.S. energy economists Robert McCullough to look at the business case for what could become the province’s most expensive public infrastructure project ever.

According to Mr. McCullough: “Using industry standard assumptions, Site C is more than three times as costly as the least expensive option. Thus, while the cost and choice of potions deserve further analysis, the simple conclusion is that Site C is more expensive than the renewable and natural gas portfolios elsewhere in the U.S. and Canada.”

Mr. McCullough’s assertion that B.C. Hydro had its thumbs on the scale, so to speak, in an effort to make the Site C project look better than private sector alternatives appears, frankly, correct. In his report, he notes the following. Provincial accounting changes adopted in 2014 “to reduce the cost of power generated” are illusory. The costs will, like all costs, have to be paid, whether by hydro ratepayers or provincial taxpayers.

Mr. McCullough also disputes the rate that B.C. Hydro used to compare the long-term borrowing costs of capital for Site C against other projects. This so-called discount rate being proposed by B.C. Hydro is critical to overall cost projections, yet despite this, the paper trail on the discount figure — I quote Mr. McCullough — “could only be described as sketchy and inadequate,” especially when other major utilities in North America use higher rates for such projects because they are considered risky investments.

Mr. McCullough outlines major economic risks for the province in his report, assertions that are further solidified by Harry Swain, the chair of the joint federal-provincial panel that reviewed the Site C dam.

In recent years, as part of the Columbia River treaty, B.C. has been selling off the Canadian entitlement of our electricity to the tune of $100 million to $300 million annually. From 2010 to 2012, that translated to $30 per megawatt hour. But in the meantime, the cost of power from the Site C dam is estimated at $83 per megawatt hour.

How does it make sense to be building new sources of power at $83 per megawatt hour while continuing to export power for $25 to $40 per megawatt hour? Swain’s report predicts that as a result of B.C. Hydro generating more power than the province actually needs, the Site C dam would lose at least $800 million in the first four years of production.

The Site C dam is not a small project. Construction will require the province to borrow nearly $9 billion, and growing, and yet the project has been exempted from an independent regulatory review by the B.C. Utilities Commission.

What kind of message does this send to the citizens of this province about the government’s commitment to accountability and transparency? Why, when two independent reviews of the project have dismantled the claim that the site project is the most affordable way to generate power, do B.C. Hydro estimates claim otherwise? Why does the province refuse to sponsor its own independent regulator’s review of the project?

The only possible answer is that B.C. Hydro figures are totally illusory, manipulated to fit the government’s political guarantee of “endless investment” in the province.

Associated with the announcement on December 16 of last year that the B.C. government was going to proceed with the construction of Site C was some very creative accounting, designed to make Site C look more competitive than it really was. The government claimed that they found savings, while the overall project costs actually rose. I’m not making this stuff up. All the government had actually done was move the financial costs of this megaproject into a different category. The fact is that the costs had gone up and so had the burden on taxpayers.

The updated cost of Site C on ratepayers was reduced from $83 per megawatt hour to $58 to $61 per megawatt hour, with the majority of the change coming from a commitment from government to take fewer dividends from B.C. Hydro. However, this merely shifted the capital cost of building the dam from B.C. Hydro ratepayers to British Columbia taxpayers.

Just three weeks earlier, on November 25, I attended a Canadian Geothermal Energy Association — known as CanGEA — press conference, where they released a report entitled the following: Geothermal Energy: The Renewable and Cost Effective Alternative to Site C.

Some of the key findings in that report included the following:

  1. Geothermal energy unit cost, conservatively, was estimated at $73 per megawatt hour, compared to B.C. Hydro’s $83 per megawatt hour for Site C, a number that was, as I pointed out, creatively reduced to $58 to $61 per megawatt hour shortly after this press conference;
  2. Geothermal plant construction equaling the energy output of the proposed Peace River dam is estimated at $3.3 billion compared to at least $7.9 billion for Site C, raising to $8.8 billion just three weeks later;
  3. Geothermal plants provide more permanent jobs that are distributed across British Columbia — another key finding in the report;
  4. For the same power production, the total physical and environmental footprint of geothermal projects would be substantially smaller than Site C.

We are the only jurisdiction in the Pacific Rim that does not have any geothermal capacity in our province, state or territory. British Columbia has a significant potential to develop geothermal and other renewable energy projects throughout the province. Such projects would distribute energy production where it is required and allow power to be brought on line as demand increases.

The available evidence at that time made it clear that the government should not proceed with the Site C project. There were simply too many cheaper alternatives available to protect the ratepayer or the taxpayer. The clean energy sector was eagerly awaiting a more fiscally responsible investment decision that would provide employment and development opportunities across the province.

Site C was then, and still remains, the wrong project at the wrong time. Alternative energy, including geothermal, wind, solar, small-scale hydro sources and biomass, coupled with existing dams, would provide firm energy and capacity at a better cost to British Columbians. They would also provide better economic opportunities to local communities and First Nations, with lower impacts on traditional territory.

In March of this year, Harry Swain, co-chair of the joint review panel appointed for the Site C dam and former deputy minister of Industry Canada and of Indian and Northern Affairs, raised some very serious concerns about the government’s approach to approving Site C. Mr. Swain was very clear that the government was rushed in approving Site C and that British Columbians will pay for their haste.

As Mr. Swain said: “Wisdom would have been waiting for two, three, four years to see whether the projections they” — that’s B.C. Hydro — “were making had any basis in fact.” That’s not exactly a glowing endorsement for the fiscal underpinning of Site C. The review panel predicted that by building it now, Site C will actually produce more electricity than we’ll need for the first four years, costing taxpayers $800 million.

Mr. Swain isn’t the only person to suggest waiting a few years to see if electricity demand for the project materializes. We could still build Site C down the road if necessary, but we could use the additional time to properly explore cheaper alternatives, like our vast geothermal potential in B.C. We have the time, and as I mentioned earlier, that pot of gold at the end of the LNG rainbow won’t be found any time soon, if ever at all.

Mr. Swain went even further. He argued that pushing Site C through without adequate consideration of cost-effective alternatives was a “dereliction of duty.” Those are strong words — “dereliction of duty” — from a very highly regarded senior official from the Canadian government, a very distinguished scholar, a very distinguished senior official, and the chair of the joint review panel. I repeat: “dereliction of duty.”

To be even more blunt, it’s recklessness on the part of the government. We have a sense of the cost: an $800 million loss in the first four years of operation, because of the construction timing. We know there are affordable alternatives to Site C. These alternatives would allow us to meet present and future energy needs without running the risk of incurring increased public debt and potentially damaging our Triple-A credit rating.

The fact is that circumstances have changed since 2010. That’s why I no longer believe it’s fiscally prudent to move forward with this project. In the last few years, the cost of wind energy and solar PV have dropped dramatically. China, for example, is building a new windmill every hour, and China’s investment in photovoltaics has led to an 80 percent drop in price in just five years.

Over the next 20 years, B.C. Hydro has forecasted that our energy needs will increase by about 40 percent as a consequence of population and economic growth. Upon completion, this dam would produce 1,100 megawatts of power capacity and up to 5,100 gigawatt hours of electricity each year. According to B.C. Hydro, this is enough electricity to power about 450,000 homes.

So let’s look at wind power. Recently a study was produced by the investment banking firm Lazard, which suggested that the cost of unsubsidized utility-scale wind could be produced as low as $19 per megawatt hour. I repeat that the cost of unsubsidized utility-scale wind could be produced as low as $19 per megawatt hour, about a quarter of the proposed costs of the Site C dam initially and still substantially less than the revised proposed costs.

Currently in B.C., only 1.5 percent of electricity production is supplied by wind energy — incredibly low when compared with other jurisdictions internationally. But with British Columbia’s mountainous terrain and coastal boundary, the potential for onshore and offshore wind power production is enormous, almost unparalleled internationally.

The Canadian Wind Energy Association and the B.C. Hydro integrated resource plan 2013 indicate that 5,100 gigawatt hours of wind-generated electricity could be produced in British Columbia for about the same price as the electricity to be produced by the Site C dam.

That is before the price of wind dropped substantially further since 2013, and is despite the fact that all costs, including land acquisition costs incurred to date by B.C. Hydro with respect to the Site C project, have never been counted in their estimate for future construction costs. The potential scalability of Site C is minimal to nonexistent. The potential scalability of wind energy is boundless.

The minimal production of wind power in British Columbia compared to other jurisdictions around the world is surprising in light of the fact that B.C. is the home of a number of existing large-scale hydro projects.

What do I mean by that? These projects include but are not limited to the W.A.C. Bennett and Peace Canyon dams already on the Peace River and the Mica, Duncan, Keenleyside, Revelstoke and Seven Mile dams on the Columbia River system.

Hydro reservoirs are ideally suited for coupling with wind power generation to stabilize baseload supply. It’s really quite simple. When the wind is blowing, use the wind energy. When the wind is not blowing, use the hydro power. That is, hydro power, coupled with wind, acts like a rechargeable battery, with wind being the recharger and the dam being the battery.

British Columbia is one of the few jurisdictions in the world, if not the only, that has the potential to take advantage of such reservoirs as wind power, if wind power were to be introduced to the grid.

Denmark, the world’s largest producer, does not have that power. Britain — a jurisdiction where, just recently, renewable energy producers started to produce more than half of its power — does not have the reservoir capacity. But British Columbia has it all, and we’re wasting an opportunity.

Given that wind power can so easily be introduced into B.C. at an even lower price than equivalent power from Site C dam, we should ask if there are other reasons that would favour Site C over wind for the production of power to meet B.C.’s present and future energy needs.

Frankly, I can think of none. In fact, I can think of a number of reasons why wind power should be considered over Site C to produce the equivalent of 5,100 gigawatt hours per year of electrical power. Let me summarize these:

1) The construction of Site C dam will flood 6,427 acres of class 1 and 2 agricultural land and a total of 15,985 acres of class 1 to 7 agriculture land. Wind power sites would not affect agricultural land. In fact, the Peace River Valley contains the only class 1 agricultural land north of Quesnel.

2) Key regions in the archive of British Columbia’s history will be flooded. It’s unknown how many unmarked First Nation graves lie in the flood zone. But the Globe and Mail recently reported it could be in the thousands. B.C. Hydro’s own archaeological research in the valley turned up everything from dinosaur teeth to ancient stone tools and old fur-trading posts. In all, it identified 173 paleontological sites, 251 archaeological sites and 42 historic sites. The Peace River has been designated as a B.C. heritage river. It was, in fact, traversed by the explorers Alexander Mackenzie, John Finlay, Simon Fraser, John Stuart, A.R. McLeod and David Thompson, among others, in their early ventures during the 17th and 18th century. Rocky Mountain Fort, thought to be the first trading post established in British Columbia by John Finlay in 1794, as well as Rocky Mountain Portage House, across the river from Hudson’s Hope and established by John Finlay and Simon Fraser in 1805, are both located in the valley that will be flooded. The joint review panel determined that the loss of the cultural places, as a result of inundation, for aboriginal and non-aboriginal people to be of a high magnitude and permanent duration and to be frankly irreversible. The existing historically valued cultural sites would be permanently lost.

3) Job creation associated with wind, solar and geothermal power, for example, is provincewide, not in one region. Job region associated with the Site C dam is only in and around the Peace River Valley. Wind, geothermal, etc. provides distributed jobs, stable jobs across our province.

4) the risks of cost overruns associated with the construction of the Site C dam is borne by the taxpayer. The risks of cost overruns associated with the construction of wind, solar and geothermal facilities is borne by industry. This is important as it limits any risk to the taxpayer.

5) the installation of wind and other renewable energy projects can be done in partnership with First Nations, who would benefit from both local jobs as well as of revenue from the installed facilities. In contrast, the affected Treaty 8 Tribal Association has already expressed a number of serious concerns regarding the Site C dam proposal.

6) it would take longer to complete the Site C dam project than it would to install wind farms, for example. In addition, wind power is scalable, whereas Site C dam is not.

7) wind farms and other sources of renewable energy are distributed and so can be located close to where the energy is actually needed, thereby reducing transmission loss, energy loss, as electricity is transported long distances through power lines.

I recognize that B.C. Hydro operating under the Clean Energy Act has no other option in their mandate to build anything other than dams. In my view, the government has one of two choices to protect the rate and taxpayers from the unnecessary costs of the Site C construction.

First, they could either change the mandate of B.C. Hydro to allow it to invest in alternate energy technologies. Or, the second, they could require B.C. Hydro to issue calls for power to see how the market will respond. Either of these choices are acceptable and would allow the generation of other sources of power in British Columbia.

I also realize that the only reason why the Site C is going ahead now is because of the fact that on November 4, 2014, B.C. Hydro signed an agreement with LNG Canada to provide long-term power that we don’t actually have at $83.02 per megawatt hour.

But at what cost? We’ve already embodied a generational sellout in the amended LNG Income Tax Act. And that was taken to an even more egregious level in this past July’s Liquefied Natural Gas Project Agreements Act.

Now again — and just a side bar and based on the evidence today of Bill 34 being brought forward to discuss — it is precisely clear to me that there was no need at all for a summer session, as this government is so void of new ideas that we’re having to name a date in March as a day to celebrate red-tape reduction.

Now yet again, the taxpayer will step up to subsidize the government’s irresponsible quest for the mythical pot of gold somewhere at the end of the LNG rainbow. But at what cost? The building of Site C will decimate the clean tech sector that is at a critical phase in its development in B.C. and at a phase that actually employs more British Columbians today than does the oil and gas sector.

But at what cost? EDP Renewables, an internationally-acclaimed clean energy company, First Nations and TimberWest have walked away from a $1 billion wind energy investment on Vancouver Island. That’s not hypothetical. That’s here today. That’s gone today because of the irresponsible decisions being made in this government with respect to Site C and its LNG pipe dream.

For what? A desperate attempt to fulfill a suite of irresponsible election promises made in the run-up to the 2013 election. A 100,000 jobs; $100 billion prosperity fund; $1 trillion increase to our debt; Debt-free B.C.; elimination of PST; thriving schools and hospitals; and everything else in nirvana that is to be B.C.

As I’ve been pointing out for three years now, these promises were never grounded in an economic reality three years ago. They are not grounded in economic reality today. Nor will they be grounded in any economic reality in the foreseeable future.

Frankly, the incompetence of our government’s bumbling attempts to land LNG final investment decisions have made the British Columbia government a laughing stock on the international energy scene. The lack of a fiscally conservative approach to energy policy in this province makes me wonder just what this government is thinking. They are chasing a falling stock and doubling down in the process.

Sadly, the province will have to wait until 2016 or early 2017 before the B.C. Green Party brings forth our integrated platform. We will offer British Columbians an innovative vision for an integrated energy policy. We’ll offer British Columbians a plan to grow our resource-based economy and communities, and we’ll always put the interest of British Columbians first, not vested interest or political ambitions. They will be first and foremost in our policy formulation.

Site C is fiscally foolish, socially irresponsible and environmentally unsound. It no longer represents a wise economic social environmental option for providing British Columbians with the power they need. There are other alternatives available at cheaper costs with lower environmental and social impacts.

This motion must fail.


Video of my Speech



The Vote


Untitled