When we promised to dig deep into the megaproject and asked what you wanted to know, that was one of your big questions.
And it’s an issue that’s been making headlines during the election campaign, partly due to a UBC report that found halting the project now could save $2 billion.
It’s BC Hydro’s job to meet British Columbia’s power demand, which means the Crown corporation has to predict our future behaviour. How many of us will do laundry at 11 a.m. on Saturday, or turn down our thermostats to save money? BC Hydro is making the same kind of predictions for commercial and industrial customers, responsible for two-thirds of B.C.’s power consumption.
Forecasting power demand is never exact, and BC Hydro has an incentive to overestimate future demand — better to have surplus power than run out on a cold day in January though the corporation can buy power on the spot market when demand spikes.
BC Hydro’s most recent demand forecast, submitted in January to the BC Utilities Commission, predicts a 30 per cent increase in demand over 20 years.
But critics say the corporation has got it wrong.
BC Hydro is counting on electricity demand to increase at the same pace as population growth, something Harry Swain — who chaired the only recent independent review of Site C — has criticized.
“The growth in efficiencies is outpacing growth of population,” he said in a recent presentation. New technology reduces power use, and demand per person decreases, he says.
BC Hydro’s forecasts also ignore basic economic principles, Swain says. As electricity rates rise, people and businesses will use less and invest to increase efficiency. And Swain is confident Site C’s high cost will mean significant rate increases.
“If you think prices have gone up, you ain’t seen nothing yet,” he said.
Read the rest of the article here at The Tyee or here at Discourse Media.
Part five in a six part series for The Tyee and Discourse Media.