Proposed Site C dam an important part of B.C.'s energy future
Third dam on Peace River would deliver power at lower cost than other renewable options
There's a growing demand for electricity in British Columbia. Province-wide, electricity needs are expected to grow as much as 40 per cent over the next 20 years.
Delivering reliable power to B.C.'s homes and businesses means that BC Hydro needs to ensure the electricity system can meet that growing need.
As much as 78 per cent of that future demand will be met through conservation, or what we call demand-side management. But saving power won't be enough to meet the gap between the energy that we have available today, and the energy that we'll need in the future.
One of the reliable sources of power that we're proposing is the Site C Clean Energy Project (Site C), a proposed third dam and hydroelectric generating station on the Peace River in northeast B.C..
What makes it such a good option? It would provide clean, renewable and cost-effective electricity, just like our existing dams have done for decades.
A cost-effective, dependable resource option
BC Hydro electricity is among the most competitively priced in North America — thanks to our existing hydroelectric dams, the costs of which have been depreciated and now produce electricity at a very low cost to ratepayers.
Building Site C would deliver similar benefits for more than 100 years. Over the life of the project, BC Hydro ratepayers would have access to reliable power, compared to many other renewable alternatives that provide only intermittent power (e.g., they cannot provide power when the wind is not blowing or the river is not flowing). And Site C's power would be provided at a lower cost than other renewable alternatives.
As part of the extensive review of the Site C project, the independent Joint Review Panel found that "Site C would be the least expensive of the alternatives, and its cost advantages would increase with the passing decades as inflation makes alternatives more costly." (Joint Review Panel report, p. 305).
Site C would deliver significant economic benefits for the province, with about 10,000 person-years of direct employment during construction, and about 33,000 person-years of total employment. It would also generate significant economic activity throughout B.C., contributing $3.2 billion to provincial GDP [PDF].
Smaller reservoir equals smaller environmental footprint
Site C would share many of the same benefits as our existing hydroelectric dams (such as Revelstoke Dam), but with some important advantages due to its location downstream of BC Hydro's W.A.C. Bennett Dam.
Most notably, the reservoir behind the Site C dam would be comparatively smaller than BC Hydro's other major hydroelectric projects because it would rely on the Bennett Dam's Williston Reservoir for water storage. This means Site C would generate approximately 35 per cent of the energy produced at the W.A.C. Bennett Dam, with only five per cent of the reservoir area.
And like other hydroelectric dams, Site C would generate clean power, with among the lowest greenhouse gas emissions, per gigawatt hour, when compared to other forms of electricity generation. Carbon emissions from hydroelectric dams are significantly less than from fossil fuel sources (such as coal or gas generation) and within the ranges expected for wind, geothermal and solar sources.
What's the status of Site C? The three-year environmental assessment process is nearing completion and a decision on environmental approvals is expected by late October. The provincial government must also make a final investment decision on a project. If approved, site preparation would begin in 2015, with project completion in 2023.