The public has been overwhelmed with so much uninformed rhetoric on the Site C project that I find I can no longer keep my opinions to myself. Many self-proclaimed experts are using all manner of media to suggest ridiculous alternatives to our growing energy needs, others use the approval of this project as a platform to either praise or ridicule the present government, and I am sure some expound on the subject simply to hear the sound of their own voice.
In 1978, I moved to Hudson Hope with my family as an employee of B.C. Hydro (BCH). For the next 26 years, I held a variety of tradesman and managerial positions at both the Peace Canyon and the W.A.C. Bennett dams. I am also an avid outdoorsman who enjoyed many hours fishing and boating on the Peace River and hunting the surrounding countryside. It is truly a bountiful natural resource for all to use, enjoy and protect. I am not a subject matter expert, but believe my years in the area and my background in power generation allow me to offer insight from a fairly informed position.
In a perfect world we would not have to create environmental impacts for power. But of course, we do not live in a perfect world.
That said, we must either choose the least offensive option available or learn to consume less. Fossil-fueled power plants add unacceptable amounts of greenhouse gas to the atmosphere and nuclear-powered plants can have horrendous environmental impacts when things go wrong. Hydro power contributes nothing to global warming, adds nothing to air pollution and is generally accepted as the least environmentally harmful method of generating electrical power.
Wind and solar power have many practical and functional shortcomings as well as environmental impacts. High maintenance costs, relatively low power output, noise pollution and being aesthetically unappealing are but a few of those issues. Most importantly, we must consider that the sun doesn’t shine all the time nor does the wind blow continuously making power produced by these methods highly unreliable.
The standard of service the public demands dictates that there must always be sufficient capacity to supply all of the customers, all of the time. While independent power producers (IPPs) have helped meet the increasing demand in recent years, they present many technical, financial, and quality of product challenges making it difficult to maintain a high standard of service to you, the customer. IPPs, whether they be hydro, thermal, wind or solar will not be held responsible for ensuring a reliable, clean, reasonably priced source of electrical energy for the province, BCH will be.
The present government is neither to blame, nor to receive accolades for the decision to go ahead with this project. It has been on the books for more than 30 years and there are simply no better alternatives if we want to keep the lights on. If the Site C project had not been interrupted all those years ago it would have cost only a fraction of the $9 billion now estimated, and would have already been paid for many times over by selling surplus generation to the U.S. Exporting power to our southern neighbors has long been proclaimed as a bad thing, once again by individuals that clearly don’t understand the dynamics involved. The fact is that the peak demand for power within the province is a lot more than the average consumption.
Simply said, when we are all using lots of power in our homes and industries there has to be enough generation to supply it, but when that demand is low, generators sit idle and there is often surplus power that can be sold for great profit. In that we need to have the generation in place to serve the peak demand, why not profit when our own customers don’t need it? Some people who clearly have no idea of what they speak are fond of suggesting that we are “flooding our valleys for profit.” Common sense dictates that if we foresee a need for the generation, we should build it ASAP and get the maximum financial benefit from it as our demand is catching up with our installed capacity.
The need for Site C was seen a long time ago but delayed by the vocal minority that did not have the foresight to recognize that it would have to be built someday in any case, and that day is upon us.