Why Christy Clark's Site C debacle has potential to haunt B.C. for decades

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      There's a reason why I prefer nonfiction books to the meanderings of the Canadian media.

      It's because those who write nonfiction books routinely spend years researching a topic.

      Then they distill all that they know into 70,000 words or more.

      That's what B.C. Green Leader Andrew Weaver did before writing Keeping Our Cool: Canada in a Warming World, which was published in 2008.

      It provided deep insights into the state of the planet.

      It's relatively easy to dash off a column in a newspaper. I know that from experience.

      It's far more difficult to master a subject, communicate the most salient points, and retain a reader's interest over 200 pages.

      I hope the NDP cabinet keeps this in mind.

      That's because there are far too many Site C dam columns that fail to fully acknowledge stunning changes in the production and storage of renewable energy.

      This technological revolution is driving down electricity prices in many countries.

      And it's sharply increasing the likelihood that Site C power will be sold at enormous losses.

      David Suzuki and Ian Hanington's new book offers a good introduction to how solar power is already being stored in homes.

      Economically speaking, the Site C dam is B.C.'s equivalent of the Alberta oilsands.

      There are sky-high production costs just as the price of electricity is likely to crash.

      It holds out the prospect of being Christy Clark's version of the fast ferries financial scandal multiplied 10-fold.

      Yet most in the media fail to acknowledge this.

      Look to the future, not the past

      This week, Times Colonist columnist Les Leyne declared that the "economics" indicate the Site C dam should proceed.

      Leyne also claimed $4 billion has already been spent and the project was past the point of no return.

      Meanwhile, a recent report by three university researchers found that only $1.87 billion would be spent by June 30.

      Their report also noted that cancelling the dam in northeastern B.C. would save between $500 million and $1.65 billion.

      “The business case for Site C is far weaker now than when the project was launched, to the point that the project is now uneconomic,” Karen Bakker, Canada Research Chair in political ecology, said in a UBC news release. “The good news is that we are not past the point of no return, according to our analysis.”

      Most significantly, those who pontificate about the Site C dam in the mainstream media seem blind to the possibility of storing renewable energy generated at home.

      Years ago, it was true that solar power couldn't be retained for future use, but that's no longer the case. Advances are taking place every month.

      If there's any doubt, check out the demo of the ElectrIQ system at the Torbram Electric Supply store in Langley.

      The number of solar installations has increased sharply in the United States in recent years.

      A new book by David Suzuki and Ian Hanington, Just Cool It! The Climate Crisis and What We Can Do, reveals how companies like Tesla and AllGrid Energy are producing home battery systems that store electric power.

      Solar power is increasingly common in the U.S. Yet that's supposedly the prime market for Site C power, given stagnant electricity demand in B.C.

      In the video below, the nonprofit Solar Foundation points out there was nearly a 25 percent increase in solar jobs last year.

      Is it any wonder that Weaver and Environment and Climate Change Strategy Minister George Heyman are so enthusiastic about the job prospects related to renewable energy?

      The Solar Foundation released its Solar Jobs Census report in February.

      The U.S. used to be the major market for natural gas exports until another technological revolution, hydraulic fracturing, made America self-sufficient. Natural gas revenues to the province plummeted.

      History has a way of repeating itself in different forms.

      A century ago, many people relied on streetcars to reach their destinations in the Lower Mainland.

      There was a Central Park Line, a Burnaby Lake Line, a Marpole-New Westminster Line, and a Vancouver-Marpole Line, among others.

      Then companies like Ford and General Motors started selling vehicles to individuals, and streetcars mostly disappeared.

      The home-storage revolution could have a similar effect on large utilities as this technology continues to improve.

      Victoria's last streetcar carried passengers in 1948.
      UVic archives

      In the future, more homeowners and communities will generate and store their own electricity from wind, solar, tidal, and geothermal sources.

      They'll be able to keep the lights on even when B.C. Hydro is announcing blackouts.

      Over time, large utilities will become smaller and less relevant in our lives.

      Electricity will be produced in a far more distributed fashion closer to where it's being consumed.

      Naturally, it will become less expensive as more supply is created and transmission costs go down.

      That's the world that we can expect when B.C. Hydro is marketing Site C power.

      Despite this, the Vancouver Sun's Vaughn Palmer still expects this $8.8-billion megaproject to make it across the finish line.

      No wonder those who pay attention to electricity production and storage, including Weaver, are left shaking their heads in wonder.