An Oregon-based energy consultant has told an a regulatory inquiry into the Site C Dam that scrapping the project in favour of green power will save ratepayers billions of dollars.
Robert McCullough, who was commissioned by project opponents the Peace Valley Landowners Association, presented the report to the BC Utilities Commission (BCUC) on Friday morning, which argues terminating Site C will save between $2.08 billion and $4.37 billion.
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“On wind farms, the price has gone down 60 per cent over the last five years. I mean that’s a hell of a change,” McCullough said.
“The same thing is true with solar arrays. They’ve gone down even more over the last five years. So what’s happened with Site C is it’s old technology. It was planned 10 years ago. And it’s now running into a massive market change.”
As a comparison, McCullough points to neighbouring Washington State, which he argues has developed five times as much wind power as B.C.
“We’re comparing ourselves with identical geology, identical weather, similar culture, similar technology. So there’s no particular reason why we would assume a differential between Washington state and British Columbia.”
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Last week, BC Hydro admitted it would miss the key milestone of diverting the Peace River by 2019, a setback that will add $610 million to the project, bringing the total price tag to $8.9 billion.
However, the Crown corporation argues that funding other energy products carries uncertainty and would cost billions more than the finished dam.
The company also says it expects power demand to increase by 40 per cent over the next two decades, and it is unsure if alternative sources can keep up.
BC Hydro will make its presentation to the BCUC on Saturday.
In August, the NDP government referred the Site C dam project to the BCUC to advise on the project’s finances and the potential cost of terminating or suspending it.
Last month, the BCUC released its preliminary report into the dam, finding the project was on time for a 2024 completion, but that the commission lacked information to make many other key determinations about the project, including total project cost or the long-term cost to ratepayers of halting work.
The report did argue that BC Hydro was wrong to rule out alternative sources of energy such biomass and geothermal power as unsuitable for B.C.’s needs.
The utilities commission is slated to release a final report by Nov. 1.
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