Joint Review Panel says true cost of Site C dam is unclear
One section of the report examines the estimated $7.9-billion cost of the project on the Peace River.
According to the report, the federally and provincially mandated panel "cannot conclude on the likely accuracy of Project cost estimates because it does not have the information, time, or resources".
The panel recommends that, if the dam is approved, the project cost should undergo a "detailed examination" by the B.C. Utilities Commission.
"Because BC Hydro has not built a project of this size for many years, the Panel feels that there is little corporate experience to draw on. When asked for its recent experience with smaller capital projects, BC Hydro noted that its average cost overrun on recent projects of more than $50 million was 3.3 percent, and for generation projects, was -0.3 percent. The Panel is encouraged by these results," the report states.
As well, the panel draws attention to "other economic considerations" that may concern taxpayers.
"The scale of the Project means that, if built on BC 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 BC 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 BC Hydro have made some other alternatives unavailable," the report says.
With the release of the panel's report, the federal and provincial governments each have six months to make their respective decisions on the project.