Dammed If They Do. British Columbia’s Site C Ironies.

Charles asked me to look at this WUWT reader Earthling2’s submission.

Having done so, the saga is so loaded with ironies that this guest post resulted.

Site C is a (very troubled) hydroelectric dam under construction on the Peace River in NE British Columbia (BC) in Canada. It will have 900MW of installed capacity—about equal to two medium-sized advanced CCGT costing about $2.2 billion according to EIA December 2020  (more on this irony below).  The newly reported decision NOT to cancel a now $16 billion ‘geotechnically challenged’ dam originally projected in 2014 to cost ‘only’ $8.3 billion (plus $400 million contingency) was made for two newly announced reasons: too much sunk cost, and CLEAN energy. Harvard Business School taught me to NEVER throw good money after bad; sunk costs are irrelevant to future investment—except to BC politicians excusing a long history of poor Site C decisions.

Site C was one of four hydro locations along the Peace River originally proposed in the mid-1950s. Two were built. A serious look at Site C in the early 1980’s concluded it was neither economic nor needed. It was revived in 2014 on green grounds despite another pre-construction study finding BC did not need the electricity. It would all be exported to the US (California), and at CA wholesale electricity prices would return BC over its life about $1.8 billion, leaving BC ratepayers on the hook for about $7 billion—a very bad deal even at the outset.

BC politicians pushed ahead anyway, despite strong opposition from First Nation Tribes and the BC Green Party since the dam would flood much fertile Native Canadian farmland along the lower Peace. A Tribe Treaty lawsuit still pends.

The then ruling BC Liberal Party pushed to get the project to the point of no return before the 2017 election. They did so—but lost anyway. Doing so was a BIG mistake, because actual construction started before finishing the preconstruction dam foundation civil engineering. Which is why Site C is ‘geotechnically challenged’. Its shale bedrock isn’t stable, and the roughly $8 billion cost overrun from 2014 is necessary to stabilize the dam’s foundations.

That the bedrock under Site C wasn’t stable did not need a completed civil engineering study to figure out. That same Site C shale, southeast of the dam site, is home to major shale gas fracking operations—which ironically could have provided cheap gas to those two medium sized CCGT, which in turn could have saved First Tribes farmland AND ~$14 billion. Because of the fracking and accompanying wastewater reinjection, the area has been subject to increasing swarms of small to medium fracking induced earthquakes—just like Oklahoma. In 2017-2018 alone, 6551 quakes greater than Richter 0.8—compared to ‘only’ 71 registered in the Canadian earthquake database! A paper at PolicyNotes.ca contains the following map of the area for those two years.

Their politicians also just told BC ratepayers that it will all be ‘OK’ after the dam is finally completed in 2025. That is because Site C’s clean hydro is dispatchable. It will enable higher future wind turbine penetration—which would further reduce its hydroelectric output and worsen its awful economics. Last I checked NE BC also has a heck of a lot worse winter weather than Texas, so adding future unneeded wind is beyond ironic. But BC will finally have truly green energy to export to California at a big financial loss—since according to the California PUC new hydro and new pumped hydro storage are NOT green.

Everything about Site C teaches the folly of Green New Deals. It is plainly a Green BAD Deal.

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Steve Case
February 28, 2021 6:16 am

Combined Cycle Gas Turbine (CCGT) 

I had to look it up. Is there some reason that people insist on using undefined acronyms?

Reply to  Steve Case
February 28, 2021 6:42 am

It’s been a common acronym for years now. At least, common for me and I’ve known it for years.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  SMC
February 28, 2021 8:31 am

Like beauty, “common” is in the eye of the beholder. I’m sure that there are niche technologies that have jargon and abbreviations that are unfamiliar to most.

Reply to  SMC
February 28, 2021 2:18 pm

Thoughtful writers will use the full name first and introduce the acronym so readers don’t have to look it up, then use just the acronym for the rest of the article Just one of those little things you do when you’re trying to inform the reader.

Rud Istvan
Reply to  stinkerp
February 28, 2021 8:14 pm

Sure. Thoughtful. So why don’t you get asked by Charles to contribute a post like this using a commonly know acronym term since many years here , instead of me?

Reply to  stinkerp
March 1, 2021 10:24 am

If there are more than about three acronyms in a paper, even that gets confusing. In this age of electronic copy production, nobody is gaining anything from acronyms. Well maybe the author gets the power rush from wielding the sacred jargon of Anor for a while. Acronyms have no place in clear writing.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  BCBill
March 2, 2021 4:40 pm

Yes, there was a time, which most of us remember, when a long name had to be repeated on a typewriter. Nowadays, unless it actually adds clarity, it is easy to do a global search-and-replace for any stub acronyms. I find that as I get older, my short-term memory is degrading and it makes it easier to comprehend what I’m reading if I don’t have to look for the first use of the acronym.

Abolition Man
Reply to  Steve Case
February 28, 2021 7:02 am

Part of the joy of WUWT is always learning new terms and acronyms! I myself just learned that a Svendrup (Sv) is a unit of flow from oceanography equal to one million cubic meters per second! Who knew! This has so altered my life that I am seriously considering going back to bed! For a month!
Seriously though, I don’t in any way want to offend, but sometimes I think there is a secret cabal of college STEM professors deep inside the WUWT site trying to keep us on our toes!

Last edited 1 year ago by abolition man
John K. Sutherland
Reply to  Abolition Man
February 28, 2021 7:41 am

Abolition Man, Please look up ‘sievert’ abbreviation Sv, and then please correct what you wrote above.

Reply to  John K. Sutherland
February 28, 2021 8:30 am

Actually both of you are correct – Sievert and Sverdrup are both abbreviated Sv. (I had to double check that with a quick trip to Wikipedia) However, in this context, Sverdrup seems more apropos. Seems silly that both are abbreviated Sv, but there you go. Another example would be gram (g, gr), grain (gr), and gross (gr, gro).

Reply to  M12edit
February 28, 2021 8:52 am

In Slavic languages Sv is abbreviation for Saint (Sveti) e.g. Sv. Marko, Sv. Petar, Sv. Nikola, Sv. Djordje etc 

Jeff Alberts
Reply to  M12edit
February 28, 2021 8:58 am

That’s why it’s common practice to spell out the words, and put the acronym or abbreviation in parentheses right after. Then there’s no confusion. Simples!

Reply to  Jeff Alberts
February 28, 2021 9:53 am

Yes, and CCGT was used, the first time, many, many years ago on this site. But we must remember that there are newbies here, and consider communicating more completely.

Crispin Pemberton-Pigott
Reply to  Jeff Alberts
February 28, 2021 6:09 pm

Basic academic writing rule.

Reply to  Crispin Pemberton-Pigott
February 28, 2021 8:58 pm

Why the frig are you worried about the spelling or the use of ACRONYMS? The article was about the colossal waste of money

Reply to  John K. Sutherland
February 28, 2021 12:26 pm

@ John K. Sutherland Both a Svendrup and a Sievert are abbreviated Sv. One applies to oceanography and one to ionizing radiation. I suspect that a reader could tell from the context whether he was reading a paper on oceanography or ionizing radiation. You could have learned something new in 30 seconds of investigating.

Reply to  RayG
February 28, 2021 7:52 pm

I reckon you could also apply Sv’s to the money flowing into uneconomic renewables schemes.

Alan Robertson
Reply to  Dean
February 28, 2021 11:51 pm

That abbreviation could be Pa, P!$$ed Away.

Reply to  RayG
February 28, 2021 8:58 pm

Why the frig are you worried about the spelling or the use of ACRONYMS? The article was about the colossal waste of money

Reply to  Colin
February 28, 2021 9:49 pm


Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Abolition Man
February 28, 2021 8:36 am

Well, you learned something that isn’t true. The unit is “Sverdrup,” not “Svendrup.”

Abolition Man
Reply to  Clyde Spencer
February 28, 2021 9:40 am

Just another example of not doing an adequate spellcheck! I usually employ the Mark I eyeball but rushed on to something else before full deployment! I didn’t realize until several minutes later my faux pas had occurred!
I apologize most profusely for the lapse, Clyde!

Abolition Man
Reply to  Abolition Man
February 28, 2021 9:55 am

I think I actually spelled it correctly twice! The never-to-be-damned-enough spell check changed it for me and I didn’t notice the second one!
Do you know any proper punishments for computers that insist on doing things their own way despite hours of care and charging?

Reply to  Abolition Man
February 28, 2021 4:47 pm

30 days in dry ice would certainly be at least a short term solution!

pHil R
Reply to  Abolition Man
February 28, 2021 5:03 pm

A baseball bat usually does the trick.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Abolition Man
March 2, 2021 4:43 pm

I am convinced that I usually type things correctly, and then after a delay, spellcheck changes it! I think that I would be ahead in the game if I turned spellcheck off.

Steve Case
Reply to  Abolition Man
February 28, 2021 9:57 am

Part of the joy of WUWT is always learning new terms and acronyms!

As it turns out, I went back to the Wikipedia article where I found the definition and read up on it. Gas turbine exhaust heat is in turn used to run a steam turbine. I didn’t know that, now I do (-:

Paul C
Reply to  Steve Case
February 28, 2021 10:35 am

… a steam turbine – leading to very high overall efficiency. However, when operating to balance intermittent whirlygigs, the CCGT effectively operates as a lower efficiency Open Cycle Gas Turbine (OCGT) and also suffers stresses from the variable loading (turbines are best operated at constant speed and constant power). Therefore you get reduced life and reduced efficiency of the CCGT by adding intermittent wind power onto an otherwise stable grid which can even result in using more fuel than just operating the CCGT on its own.

Pat from kerbob
Reply to  Steve Case
February 28, 2021 6:45 pm

CCGT has been used endlessly on this site because there is so much discussion about energy supply

It has appeared in ever Texas polar vortex story I think

Reply to  Steve Case
February 28, 2021 9:32 pm

Wiki!!! That’s still a reference? Is that the same WIKI that is contributor-funded?

H. D. Hoese
Reply to  Abolition Man
February 28, 2021 10:15 am

I never liked changes using people’s name like Celsius for the more logical Centigrade. Before you know it there will be a Watt!

Michael S. Kelly
Reply to  H. D. Hoese
February 28, 2021 2:34 pm


Mike Lowe
Reply to  Abolition Man
February 28, 2021 11:18 am

And STEM is ????

Abolition Man
Reply to  Mike Lowe
February 28, 2021 5:14 pm

I thought everyone would know the term for real college subjects: Science, Technology, Engineering and Math!
Aack! Hoisted by my own petard again!

Gary Ashe
Reply to  Abolition Man
February 28, 2021 11:53 am

Like Wadham’s, a million square wadhams.

Reply to  Gary Ashe
February 28, 2021 12:33 pm

1 Wadham = 1 million km²

Current level of Arctic sea ice, over 14 Wadhams !!

That’s one heck of a lot of sea ice

Far more than for most of the last 10,000 years.

Last edited 1 year ago by fred250
Reply to  fred250
March 1, 2021 3:19 am

talking of ice
another large” many manhattans” snapped off down sth this last week

Reply to  Steve Case
February 28, 2021 11:03 am


Reply to  MarkW
February 28, 2021 4:51 pm

Is that SMS language?

Reply to  Steve Case
February 28, 2021 9:00 pm

Why the frig are you worried about the spelling or the use of ACRONYMS? The article was about the colossal waste of money

Reply to  Steve Case
March 1, 2021 11:43 am

I’ve worked for companies with lists of TLAs (Three Letter Acronyms)

Last edited 1 year ago by Neo
Reply to  Steve Case
March 1, 2021 12:31 pm

I was introduced to YAAC years ago – Your Acronym Aint Communicating!

February 28, 2021 6:17 am

Hi, we’re with the government and we’re here to help!

Richard (the cynical one)
Reply to  Rhs
February 28, 2021 7:02 am

Yeah, help ourselves to the contents of your wallet.

Bill Powers
Reply to  Rhs
February 28, 2021 11:36 am

Thx Rhs, for contributing what Ronald Reagan aptly characterized as the most terrifying words in the English language.

He also noted that ” The Government’s view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases: if it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving subsidize it.” 

The latter is what we have been doing with the renewable energy industry from the beginning, sans demand.

February 28, 2021 6:48 am

I am so happy BC has money to burn. They get what they vote for, so I don’t feel sorry for them one bit.

Richard (the cynical one)
Reply to  RelPerm
February 28, 2021 7:12 am

RelPerm, you sound like one of those jealous Albertans. Many of us here did not support the decision of the former (free-enterprise coalition) administration’s decision on Site C, and then were appalled and angered at their willing involvement in the money laundering casino scandal, so withdrew support from them in the election that saw the (socialist/green) current administration into power. Now our money is being burned for us. We are ticked pink at the irony! For sure!

Reply to  Richard (the cynical one)
February 28, 2021 11:11 pm

Considring 2 different parties support this gold-plated white elephant and are willing to piss off the natives and environmentalists, the builders must have bribed just about everyone in Victoria.

Reply to  PCman999
March 1, 2021 10:35 am

Actually you aren’t far off the mark. Another technical issue facing Site C is the misappropriation of vast sums of money, purportedly gone to notorious Quebec based engineering firms who view misappropriation of funds as a normal way of doing businesses. When travelling in Quebec, never linger under highway overpasses. They are still made with the same salt laced mortar that was used to erect Fort Louisbourg.

Reply to  RelPerm
February 28, 2021 9:46 am

Unfortunately not all of us here in BC voted for these morons. We still pay for the the stupidity of the majority climate pawns.

Reply to  RelPerm
February 28, 2021 9:54 am

But does burning money keep them warm?

Reply to  Retired_Engineer_Jim
February 28, 2021 11:16 am

It definitely keeps those who are burning it warm!

Bill Powers
Reply to  John McKeon
March 1, 2021 11:57 am

And the politicians and bureaucrats have “Mucho dinero” in corrupt kick-backs to keep them warm. The great unwashed? Let them burn cake.

Just so long as nobody connects the dots and the brainwashed post 1990 public school “gradiate’s” Keep voting a one party line the evil bastardis’ are hight dry and warm. .

Reply to  RelPerm
February 28, 2021 1:00 pm

“…They get what they vote for…”

Elections are brazenly rigged in B.C.,sometimes with the scam set up even before the previous election.

An elected official can appoint a buddy to stand in for him, and then retire. The buddy can then hold the elected post for months, and get a public endorsement by his elected “peers”, while administrative obstacles are created for would-be contenders.

If that isn’t enough to dissuade all potential contenders, more obstacles are created with misinformation and extra-legal obstruction by appointed “election officials” with clear conflicts of interest.

After that, the press does its best to blemish the image of the unwanted candidate, and if the police can help with that, they’ll pitch in too.

Honest people don’t run for public office in B.C., at least, not twice. Because if they somehow manage to get elected they soon wish they hadn’t.

You might as well blame the Shiite majority of Bahrain for the behaviour of its Sunni Royal Family.

Reply to  RelPerm
February 28, 2021 4:26 pm

BCers largely swallow the Climate Change stuff and want electric cars. BC Hydro knows that more dams will be needed (or nuclear or coal or gas) powerplants, but the average dude has no knowledge of physics, particularly electricity, and doesn’t think about where it comes from and that there are hard limits to any source of it. BC Hydro also knows that wind and solar will never fulfill the need, and nuclear or fossil-fuel is definitely political suicide. So dams it must be, and now they’re opposed at every turn, too. Sooner or later the people have to learn things the hard way; they won’t listen to those that know this stuff. Their wishful thinking and emotions have blinded them.

Reply to  Dan
March 1, 2021 10:41 am

What complete bullclap. The majority of British Columbians in poll after poll have supported the trans mountain pipeline and the oil and gas industry. Like most Provinces and much of the world, our Government is controlled by an urban based population who generally believe that their tofu is lovingly raised on humane windfarms. There is a huge urban rural schism in BC and the Citiots are doing their best to drive us into ruin.

Abolition Man
February 28, 2021 6:48 am

Raw Deal! Green Raw Deal! Ya gotta get with the kool kids if ya wants to be respected!
Actually, I have no idea what modern kids are concerned with and judging by their words and actions I’m probably better off that way!
Thanks for posting this nugget of political ineptitude! As with far too much of the news these days, it would be hard to keep from laughing if not for feeling horrified by the stupidity and incompetence of those who consider themselves our betters! We REALLY need a better class of elites throughout ALL of our institutions!

Reply to  Abolition Man
February 28, 2021 6:54 am

I have no idea what modern kids are concerned with

That’s programmed into them at school etc

AGW is Not Science
Reply to  Abolition Man
March 4, 2021 12:50 pm

I like the “Green Screw Steal,” kind of sums it up on all levels.

February 28, 2021 6:52 am

If the dam should break will they blame climate change?

Michigan dam failure shows the Midwest’s growing vulnerability to climate change

Michigan dam failure demonstrates vulnerability to climate change in the Midwest – The Washington Post

Ageing dams are a time bomb – if you don’t maintain them.

Last edited 1 year ago by strativarius
Dr. Bob
February 28, 2021 7:02 am

It is totally amazing and highly revealing that California does not consider hydroelectric in any form to be renewable. As the most reliable, dispatchable and clean source of electric power, it is a crime and an affront to logic that this is the case. That politicians made this into law shows how little they know about what a true Life Cycle Assessment should look like.
No LCA on wind and solar takes into account all the aspects of building and decommissioning a wind farm or solar field. That needs to include all the massive use of scarce raw materials which include rare earth elements requiring movement of up to 1 million tons of earth per ton of metal recovered.
The decommissioning of either wind or solar leaves non-recyclable waste that is often toxic. So where is the Clean in Clean Energy?
I believe once we are totally dependent on wind and solar energy sources, the EcoNuts will go after those sources with a vengeance as well. As they should right not.

Reply to  Dr. Bob
February 28, 2021 7:21 am

Politics, as a lecturer told me many, many moons ago, equals who gets what.

This is very much the age of identity politics and groupthink, and those who shout loudest often get what they demand.

Last edited 1 year ago by strativarius
Reply to  fretslider
February 28, 2021 7:58 am

Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton did really well for themselves as race baiters

Reply to  Derg
February 28, 2021 8:16 am

There is a pattern…

Reply to  fretslider
February 28, 2021 11:25 am

Politics equals who is allowed to be harmed in the name of doing good.

Abolition Man
Reply to  Dr. Bob
February 28, 2021 8:05 am

Dr. Bob,
The radical environmental movement is one of the legs supporting the Commifornia political establishment! They dream of dynamiting the Hetch-Hetchy dam and restoring the valley there. It should only one hundred years or so to complete and I’m sure by then the SF Bay Area will have figured out another source for their drinking water! The loss of electric power from the dam and reservoir can easily be replaced with another their highly successful wind farms!

Reply to  Dr. Bob
February 28, 2021 8:07 am

“The first lesson of economics is scarcity: there is never enough of anything to fully satisfy all those who want it. The first lesson of politics is to disregard the first lesson of economics.” — Thomas Sowell

Reply to  Dr. Bob
February 28, 2021 9:31 am

I believe it’s the same in Washington State. Not considered renewable because
They would like to remove all the dams, hydro or not.

Last edited 1 year ago by yirgach
Reply to  yirgach
February 28, 2021 9:58 am

I thought that the entire CAGW / CCC crowd had declared hydro power to be non-renewable because dams.

Robert W Turner
Reply to  Dr. Bob
February 28, 2021 12:08 pm

Clean? Only if you consider disrupting riparian ecosystems ‘clean’. The economic value of fish in the Peace River are worth more than this inane project even using “green” math. But I suppose we need not worry, the fish are going to be transported upstream by truck. And then there is sediment impounding, ask those living on the Mississippi Delta how important that is.

Burgher King
February 28, 2021 7:23 am

Does anyone remember the Teton Dam disaster in Idaho in 1976? The Site C dam will be an earth fill embankment type of structure. If the foundation host rock isn’t suitable for an earth fill design, then the dam will be at substantial risk of failure.

Reply to  Burgher King
February 28, 2021 8:56 am

No worries, Burgher King, if the dam is determined to be unsafe they’ll simply tear it down and rebuild it. That’s another $14 billion spent, and at least 10 years of guaranteed union votes…I mean construction work.

Burgher King
Reply to  Klem
February 28, 2021 9:20 am

If the first dam built on Site C self destructs on its own, at least the expense of removing that one will be avoided.

Reply to  Burgher King
February 28, 2021 11:11 am

They won’t have to worry about the cost of removing any of the downstream dams either.

Len Werner
Reply to  Burgher King
February 28, 2021 11:40 am

Now there again…

I had a personal conversation with Peter Kiewit Sr. in a client’s office in Washington State while investigations and lawsuits regarding the Teton Dam disaster were still under way in about 1980; this gave me a first-hand description of just why that dam failed, and I have visited the site twice since to fully understand it.

That dam need not have failed due to geotechnical errors in stabilizing the right bank; a political decision was made to halt grouting on the north side before proper completion, and to increase fill rate of the reservoir to maximize political bragging rights for storing so much of that winter’s snowmelt. In addition questionable material allowing internal piping was used in the dam’s core construction.

In the end it was a combination of factors that caused the Teton Dam failure. We can’t know exactly what each individual shortcoming contributed, but we sure know that the combination was decisive.

And as is often the case, it takes some dedicated research–and even ‘inside information’–to fully understand what happened. As with Site C, it may not be all of, or the exact, truth that gets published.

Len Werner
Reply to  Len Werner
February 28, 2021 11:43 am

(Kiewit Construction had the Teton dam contract for grouting the right bank; I should have added that rather than force anyone to go look it up.)

Burgher King
Reply to  Len Werner
February 28, 2021 5:23 pm

Len, when I was working in the mineral industry in the late 1970’s, I spent time doing contractor oversight for construction of a large earth fill tailings dam three-fourths of a mile wide and 300 feet high.

The project was done in three phases. The dam’s foundation was in an excellent host rock and so we had no worries on that score.

But we were still very careful not to allow the reservoir behind the dam to fill too fast, thus giving plenty of time for the dam’s internal clay core to adjust itself while it was in the process of becoming saturated with water.

Reply to  Len Werner
March 1, 2021 12:37 pm

There were large fractures in the basalt bedrock that created the issues. I do not believe “dental concrete” was used to close off the cracks which led to piping of the dam core material into the cracks. And the grouting program was not robust.

Robert W Turner
Reply to  Klem
February 28, 2021 12:12 pm

When I started here, all there was was swamp shale. Other kings said I was daft to build a castle dam on a swamp shale, but I built it all the same, just to show ’em. It sank into the swamp shale. So I built another! …

February 28, 2021 7:23 am

Hmmm. Why does Canada have such a history of bad financial energy projects?

  • Churchill Falls (NL gave Québec the benefits through lack of foresight)
  • Muskrat Falls (threatens to bankrupt Newfoundland & Labrador [NL])
  • Hydro Québec‘s huge northern projects (conflict with First Nations & Environmentalists, selling cheap electricity to NY & New England to compete with Canadians)
  • Site C (can it bankrupt BC?)
  • CANDU Nuclear (Unaffordable, Uninsurable, Undisposable, Unreplaceable => giving Ontario the highest electricity rates in North America, which drive companies to move to cheaper locations)
  • Alberta-Saskatchewan Tarsands (conflict with First Nations & Environmentalists to build pipelines to export to America and Asia.
  • …?

Part of the problem seems to be poor analysis of future conditions & costs.
A second issue is wanting to sell this energy to others rather than use it to develop Canadian industry & jobs.
Even worse, the chief customer is the best friend/ally/neighbour that later calls Canada a “National Security Risk” to negotiate even worse trade deals.

Daryl M
Reply to  cuzLorne
February 28, 2021 9:18 am

It’s not just energy projects. It’s all projects. The Canadian Government is particularly incompetent at procuring things for the military. The larger the item, the worse they are.

Reply to  cuzLorne
February 28, 2021 9:41 am

They are called the OIL Sands, Dude, located in Alberta, approximately 400 km northeast of Edmonton.

Reply to  Jibb
February 28, 2021 1:56 pm

Oil? Tar? sands filled with fossil goop!

Also in Saskatchewan. Isn’t Lloydminster on the SK-AB border?

Lee L
Reply to  cuzLorne
February 28, 2021 5:31 pm

NATURE filled with NATURAL fossil goop.

Peter W
Reply to  cuzLorne
February 28, 2021 4:36 pm

The coming ice age will take care of all of Canada’s problems.

Crispin Pemberton-Pigott
Reply to  cuzLorne
February 28, 2021 6:23 pm

Electricity price was driven up by a number of factors, with wind and coal-fired backup leading.

The government cancelled all new wind as hopeless. Solar was not just subsidized, my buddy is being paid 34.5 cents a KWH feed-in tariff.

The cost is about double what it was ten years ago.

Lee L
February 28, 2021 7:38 am

Well.. nooot exactly.
But not nooot exactly either.
It’s not really about WIND turbines an California as I heard it.
The project was designed to reelect the so called BC Liberal party. Leave aside the history of how a decidely unLiberal party came to be called and stand for something else. Now that party had a majority government and had a LOT to answer for but of course, didn’t want to. So it had a plan ( which ultimately didn’t work). Involving those fracking operations mentioned (and others) which bring in tax revenue and can produce more natgas than BC citizens need.
The idea was to use the electricity from site C to run a new CNG export facilities in Kitimat, BC resulting in a big bump in employment building transport pipeline, a new export port and a great story of how well the economy (and ‘frirst nations!’) was being handled.
It turns out the ‘C’ part of CNG involves compressing the gases to a liquid form before transferring to a tanker ship and that requires a good deal of ENERGY. Now you can run the compression facilites directly off fossll generation ie. a percentage of the the NatGas coming out of the (new) pipeline, or you can run it from (new site C) electric generation. The latter alllows you to tout and hopefully sell the ‘GREENEST NATURAL GAS ON EARTH’. Sales of power to California have happened for decades, but the touting of big project employment numbers and a new CNG export port (taxes income!!!) sounded so good and was why it continued even unto to this day. Indeed, if the present lefty government DID kill it, they would have to answer to all their cosy union construction voters uh…err..um.. workers.

That’s how I heard it anyway.
Not so much about wind and more about payoff.

February 28, 2021 7:54 am

Breaking from 2 days ago…

Global Green Energy Zombie Abengoa, Caught Cooking its Books in 2015 & Bailed Out Twice, Finally Runs Out of Bailouts, Files for Bankruptcy, 2nd Largest in Spanish History


Last edited 1 year ago by john
February 28, 2021 8:11 am

Hydro is the cleanest power. And in 20 years people will be amazed we could build it for less than 8 trillion. I think the CO2 story is so much horse crap. But constant reliable power cannot be bad for anyone.

Abolition Man
Reply to  Christopher
February 28, 2021 9:44 am

It irritates and annoys the Green Blob no end; but then so does the average human!

Reply to  Christopher
February 28, 2021 2:03 pm

Except BC ratepayers & taxpayers who will pay forever for the debt.

Ditto for Canadians who Could have been employed with cheap hydro rates IF we weren’t selling it to our American cousins to compete against Canadian companies with our own ‘cheap’ electricity.

Len Werner
February 28, 2021 8:13 am

One must be a little careful when interpreting reports on projects that have a large political component within decisions and the news of them. The change in government in BC after the Site C project was started brought a major change in hiring practices, in that unions friendly to government were the only ones allowed to work there. The possibility certainly exists that the increased labour costs caused by government favouring its friends is the cause of cost increases, and geotechnical factors are the scapegoat.

A departed close friend of mine (P Eng) was a division manager of BC Hydro during the BC Utilities Commission hearings in the early 80’s, he reported to me at the time that the process was so badly conducted that he chose to retire rather than put up with a system gone so ‘political’, one in which all the technical input was simply ignored.

Mismanagement and cronyism could very easily be the cause of the high costs here like in so many projects run by government, for which the shale is now conveniently being blamed; remember that the government is controlling all the information here, just like with Covid, and that the two upstream dams are also (successfully) built on shale. As a textbook example of how governments run things, check out Canada’s new icebreaker project; the cost has gone from about $150 million to just shy of $1 billion–and not one sheet of steel has been cut yet.

I’m not drawing any firm conclusions on Site C yet; I suspect yet another part of the world here is being run on BS and lies.

February 28, 2021 8:34 am

Not to worry. Just charge it to the refugees from Hong Kong and their real estate purchases.

February 28, 2021 8:42 am

What happened to the indigenous population in this area to be silent? They blocked the pipeline projects but not this? Any word from the salmon population? I guess the libs undermined each in turn.

Lee L
Reply to  ResourceGuy
February 28, 2021 9:10 am

Pipelines aren’t part of salmon population’s problems.
Conveniently though…and for some decades now, …the population of Russian, Taiwanese and Chinese factory ships mining the Pacific are.

G. Strebel
Reply to  ResourceGuy
February 28, 2021 9:10 am
  1. a. Nothing
  2. b. Activists do not represent a majority opinion of indigenous peoples.
  3. There are already two existing dams. Incremental effect on salmon will be inconsequential. By the way, the Peace River is a tributary of the Athabasca which is a tributary of the Mackenzie, which flows into the Arctic Ocean. There has been no salmon fishery in recorded or oral history.
  4. Guess? Your ideology is showing. Have a read of Len Werner’s comment above to flesh out the context.
Reply to  ResourceGuy
February 28, 2021 10:27 am

There was a lot of Kafful a while ago. A bunch of hereditary chiefs were against the project, while the elected band council was for it. Trudeau supported the hereditary lot, I guess because he hopes to be succeeded by his eldest son.

February 28, 2021 8:55 am

Which shale was that with the landslide in Washington state that got no attention from emergency planning because that idiot Governor was focused on climate change?

Jeff Alberts
February 28, 2021 8:55 am

I’m confused as to who wrote the article. Charles asked Charles?

Rud Istvan
Reply to  Jeff Alberts
February 28, 2021 10:39 am

Charles asked me, Rud. What he posted was an inadvertent goof since he modified the title.

Jeff Alberts
Reply to  Rud Istvan
February 28, 2021 11:09 am

Thanks for clarifying. Your name isn’t anywhere up there. Usually it says “Guest Essay by…”

February 28, 2021 9:14 am

But wait, it gets worse.

The Site C dam under construction on the Peace River in NE British Columbia will have an installed capacity of 1104 MW, but only produce 5,100 gigawatt hours of electricity per annum. It is basically a run of river hydro dam that only has a capacity factor of 54% and floods thousands of acres of Class 1 farm land. It provides no flood control downstream and has no pumped storage possibility. And built on unstable mudstone (weak shale) which will be susceptible to failure when the reservoir will be filled in 2025. While the dam crest will be 50 M (165 feet +) the reservoir level will only provide about 140 feet of net head. Think about it, $16 Billion for basically a 1.1 GW “renewable” earth fill hydro dam that only has a capacity factor of 54% and a net head of 140 feet. This is even worse economics than wind and solar.

This is the most expensive hydro electric dam ever built on the planet per installed and generated MW. And all due to the insane Clean Energy Act that won’t allow British Columbia to burn its own natural gas for electricity generation, but this very expensive electricity is going to be subsidized to off shore owners to liquify LNG for export to Asia. Talk about one of the biggest rip off’s ever to tax payers of BC. This is what happens when you allow partisan politics to dictate bad policy without any technical oversight.

They could have built a 1000 MW natural gas CCGT turbine/generator plant that has an overall fuel efficiency of 60%, and an annual capacity factor of 85% of the entire 1000 MW year round using a relatively small gas pipeline and BC has decades if not centuries of nat gas available that will be all utilized over time. For probably about $2.2 Billion capital cost. The odds of this colossal dam failing on weak mudstone is high after it is built and the reservoir is full. This is full on crazy out of control insanity…just on an economics metric alone. Not to mention that this will cost even more, as the Treaty 8 court case with the local Indian tribes will probably add on another few billion in compensation. But nothing for the thousands of acres of prime Class 1 farmland that saw everyone chased out off their land, some of which was multiple generational family farms and ranches. People are pissed.

While I was and still am a supporter of some hydroelectric resources that make economic and safety sense, I predict this will basically cost $20 Billion CDN when all is said and done, for basically 575 MW of annual generation. This is insane. Especially when the area is sitting on one of the planets best natural gas resources the legally can’t burn its own natural gas for electricity.

There is much more if you care to research this, such as building new bridges and realigning highways, digging massive tunnels to divert the river, and dozens of other examples ad nauseam. I despair for a world that is going insane much too quick.

Reply to  Earthling2
February 28, 2021 10:31 am

The new demented Biden administration is taking a page from this playbook. The difference being that becuase of the scale of involvment, the US GND FU will be especially devastating.
It will take more than a few EOs to reverse.

Robert W Turner
Reply to  Earthling2
February 28, 2021 12:29 pm

But wait, there’s more. The trout native to the river do not care for using fish ladders, so there is going to be an ongoing capture and transport system of these fish, costing $25+ million to install the facilities and well over $1 per year to operate. It’s like living inside The Far Side comics.

Reply to  Earthling2
February 28, 2021 9:34 pm

You really should look into things more carefully.
The site c dam is downstream from the WAC Bennet dam which has an enormous reservoir. It is built to take advantage of that flow. It’s own reservoir is relativly small but it uses water from Williston Lake a third time for generation. This gives it a very high capacity.

Reply to  Billy
February 28, 2021 9:52 pm

Sorry, do the maths. 1104 MW installed capacity, divided by 5,100 gigawatts produced annually. = 54% capacity factor. Yes, Williston Reservoir stores the bulk of the water, the second dam at Peace Canyon is a relatively small reservoir, as is Site C. They built this as a peaking plant to turn on all 6 turbines for prime time. It is oversized so as to be a peaking plant. The annual base flow out of the watershed doesn’t allow for 1100 MW output all the time. It will average about 575 MW over the course of a year. The argument is several, but cost/economics being the central one here. Could have got the same electricity from nat gas for a whole lot cheaper and safer. Not to mention losing over 10% line losses of it is 500 KV transmission line to Vancouver/Seattle. This is just plain stupid, especially when you look at another dozen major issues.

Reply to  Earthling2
February 28, 2021 9:44 pm

My father was a homesteader in the Peace country. The soil was very good but the climate is near arctic. He got starved out and left when WW2 came along.

Reply to  Billy
March 1, 2021 7:18 am

That portion of the Peace River in NE British Columbia has a micro climate that enables the growing of major cereal crops as well as outdoor vegetable production. Part of the classification of Class 1 farmland is temperature and/or length of growing season. Being 55+ degrees north latitude gives it robust solar insolation from early May to mid Sept with quite long daylight until 10 Pm in the late spring and early summer. Combined with this microclimate and fertile bottom valley land, this is very high productive farm land unique to that far north especially the bottom lands of the valley that will be flooded. Winters can be brutal though.

Reply to  Earthling2
March 1, 2021 11:04 am

I was raised in the area of the Site C dam and there used to be market gardens growing corn and tomatoes along the banks of the Peace in the 50s and 60s. This seems inconceivable but it is true. Cheap California produce grown with Mexican labour killed the market gardens and the Liberal Government’s wanton disregard for agricultural land was the coup de grace.

Chris Morris
February 28, 2021 9:15 am

that earthquake map is misleading. Most of the plotted points are so small no one would have felt them. Even the Magnitude 4s don’t have much effect. If a 4.0 is equivalent to 6 ton of dynamite and its a log scale, most of those quakes would be smaller than blasting at the local quarry. And that is at surface. Deep underground where the shock can radiate in any direction only super-sensitive instruments would pick them up. .

Rud Istvan
Reply to  Chris Morris
February 28, 2021 10:26 am

The point was not earthquakes per se. It was that it did not take the incomplete civil engineering plan to know a priori that the bedrock was unstable and the foundations would need shoring up, something not in the 2014 $8.3 billion estimate and the main cause of the $8 billion overrun.

February 28, 2021 9:34 am

Climatologist Michael E Mann: ‘Good people fall victim to doomism. I do too sometimes’
For a half a second I thought… ah, never mind.

Last edited 1 year ago by vuk
February 28, 2021 9:45 am

To be fair in the comparison of this power source to natural gas turbines, in BC we get lots of free water in our reservoirs. The site C dam has a stupid capital cost overrun, but the dam will last 100 years. And although the author is fair and accurate in describing the controversy of a few years ago about whether the electricity from this dam will be needed domestically, at this stage it is clear those who said “yes” were correct.

Pat from kerbob
Reply to  Gordo
February 28, 2021 7:01 pm

See my comment above
A good project

Reply to  Gordo
March 1, 2021 11:08 am

And you live in Vancouver eating food grown in Mexico and paid for by exports of logs, coal and natural gas that all come from very far from where you live?

Joel O'Bryan
February 28, 2021 9:55 am

There is a certain criminal mindset in those politicians getting to spend other people’s money on public works projects. I can promise you, without looking into it, those politicians were getting backroom ‘support’ from the construction companies and the union labor who would build that dam.
This is exactly like former-Governor Moonbeam’s highspeed train to no-where in central California. It survives ONLY because of the crony capitalism “jobs” it creates for unionized work forces and the construction companies, both paying support (pay to play) to the pols via campaign contributions. Or Bostons’ Big-Dig burying of I-93 and connecting arteries roads underneath the city and Boston Harbor of 20 years ago that had multi-billion dollar overruns.
There is nothing Green about Cali’s slow-train to nowhere, just like there is nothing Green or needed about Site C hydropower. But both a jobs programs that return favors to the pols who foisted them on the public’s dime.

Last edited 1 year ago by Joel O’Bryan
Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
February 28, 2021 10:56 am

“There is a certain criminal mindset in those politicians getting to spend other people’s money”

You are so right! Ironically, a small Alberta company called PetroWest got the contract with Peace River Partners who supplied all the earth moving equipment from their workings in the oil sands next door in Alberta. They were partnered with ACCIONA Infrastructure Canada Inc. and Samsung C&T Canada Ltd. who successfully bid the original $1.75 Billion civil works contract. Within less than a year, PetroWest was bankrupted by ‘creative accounting’ but received a $10.9 Million non compete direct contract from the Crown Corp BC Hydro through a PetroWest numbered company, a week before they filed for bankruptcy. Unfortunately for me, I had invested $117,000 in the stock of PetroWest with some of my retirement funds and lost it all overnight. How does a company with all the earth moving equipment to build this dam go bankrupt after receiving a $1.75 Billion contract with two of the worlds largest infrastructure companies? Corruption is rife at every level in BC Hydro and both the main political parties of British Colombia. When it is this brazen, just as the USA election process turned out to be, what hope is there for the rest of the world?


Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
February 28, 2021 1:17 pm

Those cronies have to face the dream team assembled.

Robert W Turner
February 28, 2021 12:35 pm

Salt water disposal in OK has declined tremendously since the earthquakes began over a decade ago, yet there are still plenty of earthquakes – 128 measured in just the past week alone. It is possible to cause small earthquakes with high pressure injection into basement rock, but that is not what has occurred in OK and many of the earthquakes were far too large to be explained by water injection. Believe it or not, processes on Earth are dynamic, and there is a mantle downwelling cell underneath OK. Earthquakes there are natural.


Last edited 1 year ago by Robert W Turner
February 28, 2021 1:53 pm

Interesting article.
Some comments mention some units of measurement.
The one I like is from Classical literature, the measure of feminine beauty.
The “Helen”, Helen of Troy was so beautiful that her’s was the face that “launched a thousand ships.”
From which we get the “Milli-Helen”.
Beauty sufficient to launch one ship.

Elle Webber
February 28, 2021 2:35 pm

I live in British Columbia, and I am in favour of this dam. In the present Green Alarmism age, I am more concerned about being stuck with unreliable wind generated electricity (that is, blackouts) in our province than I am about cost overruns. And, as the Green Alarmists get more hysterical about everything, this is likely the only large project able to be built in decades to come. Keep in mind, all our govts are increasingly restricting our energy choices; home heating, cars, kitchen stoves are all becoming “electricity only” whether the extra electricity is actually available or not. So excess electricity capacity/generation is just fine with me.

February 28, 2021 5:32 pm

I am a retired BC Hydro engineer who worked on various parts of the Peace River projects since 1970. BC Hydro was formed in 1961 as a government owned “Crown Corporation” to provide the most economical and reliable electrical power for all residents of BC. They, in fact, achieved those goals until 1987, when a new provincial government decided that BC Hydro would be “used” as a political tool to get more votes for the party in power. Since then, there engineering staff were down sized, and engineering and construction work was contracted out. Managers were assigned jobs on the basis of politics rather than competence. Costs on projects started to rise quickly as more mistakes and incompetent management became the new normal. Add continued political interference, and site C is the the current result.

Whenever politicians get involved in technical issues, only disaster can follow!

Unfortunately, much of the information in the news media is inaccurate and/or spin-doctored to suit the people providing the information!

It is sad to see how these kind of situations are happening everywhere.

Pat from kerbob
Reply to  Tom
February 28, 2021 6:58 pm

Tom, what you describe is the politicization of a public utility, so it’s no longer being operated in the interest of every day people

John Schulting
February 28, 2021 6:27 pm

As a BC resident (northern BC) I have a few comment. The article pretty much echoes all the talking points of the various (and many ) anti dam groups.
I work in the area and am familiar with the farmland being lost, and its quality. It was, until recently underused and of poor quality. The first Nations complaints are not an argument against the damn since EVERY development is protested by native bands.
Given the increased electrical demands expected from electric cars and our increased electrical use I doubt the power from site c will be exported. Further, hydroelectric power is well suited to electric cars as owners can charge overnight when power use is low and water is just flowing over the spillway, unused.
Lastly, those in the comments suggesting we get what we vote for are unfamiliar with politics in BC. The site c dam, for all its flaws made a hell of a lot more sense than the proposals of the other party at the time. Started under our ‘right wing ‘ government, it was continued under our left wing one. Who would you have had us vote for?

Reply to  John Schulting
March 1, 2021 7:30 am

It isn’t poor quality farmland that was the problem why a lot of the land wasn’t fully developed or utilized. It was the fact that all that Class 1 farmland has been in a BC Hydro flood reserve that would see the land expropriated. So in many cases, the land was just used to put up a couple crops of hay per season, knowing it would be gone from the available agriculture base. It is a well known fact that this area of the Peace River has a fairly favorable spring/summer microclimate with some of the best productive farm lands in Canada.

John Schulting
Reply to  Earthling2
March 1, 2021 12:54 pm

This area of the peace is also huge, and the area to be flooded rather small.
The importance of the land is being overstated by opponents of the dam and trumpeted by folks who for reason see the dam as part of the green energy movement. It has never been a green issue. It is a resource development issue. A secure energy source issue . A British Columbia issue.

Reply to  John Schulting
March 1, 2021 7:45 pm

The Clean Energy Act was a treasonous bit of legislation that made utilizing our own nat gas for electricity production illegal. All while planning to subsidize the export of LNG being compressed by very expensive but subsidized hydro electricity from Site C (1000 km away) which the taxpayers will be left holding the bag. I am surprised anyone would support this poor choice of economics by implicitly supporting the banning of natural gas for electricity production when we are still going to export the nat gas and drive up the price of that commodity for homeowners heating their houses. Of course they are trying to make that illegal too. But home owners and tax payers are going to get shafted on both ends of this issue.

Reply to  John Schulting
March 1, 2021 11:14 am

You clearly have no idea about soil if you think the farmland is poor quality. Under utilised yes.

John Schulting
Reply to  BCBill
March 1, 2021 12:47 pm

Underutilized if you prefer. Also in small parcels for the most part. As for why it wasn’t developed, sure, if you say so. That land has been that way for decades, and very little effort would have been needed. They have a lot of prime land up there, much of it under used. This little bit became so important only in the minds of folks opposed to the dam.

Pat from kerbob
February 28, 2021 6:50 pm

BC and BC hydro are using decades of low power rates to convince chevron to change the design for their Kitimat LNG project from gas turbine to electric motors, which makes me rub my hands together.

That will be where the site C power goes, 10 50MW LNG compressors making nice beautiful LNG

Using renewable hydro to make it means its CO2 footprint drops dramatically compared to the Shell Canada LNG project

Which appears to be important to the BC govt and our virtue signaler in chief PM Trudeau IIN (idiot in charge)

It’s also why the local Green Party tried so hard to kill the dam as they know it will be used to make evil LNG and “greenwash” it.

Whatever floats your boat
It certainly works for me

Last edited 1 year ago by Pat from Kerbob
March 1, 2021 3:13 am

Gee wiz – a civil project having an enormous cost overrun due to insufficient geotechnical work prior to design. That’s never happened before – has it?

March 1, 2021 8:38 am

As an installer of CCGT generators it is really ironic that one of the highest number of new installations for these units was NE British Columbia. My company installed over 35 new units in this area of BC in the last 5 years. This is because of a power shortage and a lack of infastructure to support the new gas fields developed with the use of fracking. It was cheaper for the resource companies to install 3 or 4 units at the gas gathering and processing facilities than it was to pay for BC Hydro to upgrade their power distribution system to supply power to these sites. Another problem with this area of BC is that they did not have an excess of power available to supply these new gas plants until Site “C” comes on line. The existing power from the BC hydro dams in place is all spoken for already and the area in question is actually getting its power from a large CCGT plant in Taylor BC or it can be supplemented from Alberta by a power line supplied by more CCGT’s on the Alberta side.

The Greens think that energy comes from a Unicorns back end and have NO concept of how the system really works. What is laughable is they have been installing over 100 windmills in this area and it is always fun to drive by them and see how many are actually turning on any given day. The wind does not always blow in this area and most of the time these windmills are turning slowly or not at all. At least when they are not turning they are not chopping the bird population to mincemeat.

Maureen from Regina
March 1, 2021 8:59 am

The blog The Black Rod out of Winnipeg, has been monitoring the fiasco that is Manitoba Hydro for years. It is of interest to me as my father was intimately involved in the design and construction of Pine Falls hydro plant in the early 1950s. He was a huge believer in hydro electric power, but it was be ashamed of the bungling in the last decade.

This is a good summary of the all the article The Black Rod has compliled


Murphy Slaw
March 1, 2021 11:06 am

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a Letter to the Editor here in Invermere BC. I said some of the same stuff in this essay and added my thought that our coal being shipped to China seemed counter productive and we should think about making power from it in BC and exporting to California.

The paper banned my letter and me.

March 1, 2021 11:41 am

In 2017-2018 alone, 6551 quakes greater than Richter 0.8

Not being a geologist, I feel I need to ask for some clarification about these quakes.
Do these relatively small quakes forestall future larger quakes ?

Rud Istvan
Reply to  Neo
March 1, 2021 9:17 pm

No, in general. The point was never minor earthquakes per se. As said in a comment above, it was only that unstable bedrock should have been known beforehand from this map, and cost planned for, but wasn’t. Hence the about $8 billion foundation shoring up 2014 cost over run.

David S
March 1, 2021 8:24 pm

This is an interesting story about another failed green energy scheme. But all anyone wants to talk about is acronyms.

Rud Istvan
Reply to  David S
March 1, 2021 9:19 pm

Disappointing. Neither Charles nor I thought that CCGT would trigger such a response, since has been used here for years

Rud Istvan
March 1, 2021 8:50 pm

My personal former Army acronym label favorite was GHSx, where x could be Y R G or X
Translation: grenade, hand, smoke, colors yellow, red, green, or grey— each having a separate signal code. Green meant a clear LZ. Red meant not clear. We always understood X grey as not smokey but rather WTF.

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