Today, the report of the joint federal-provincial panel (the Joint Review Panel) appointed to review BC Hydro’s proposed Site C Clean Energy Project (Site C) was publicly released, following its submission to the federal and BC governments on May 1, 2014.  A copy of the full report is available here; a copy of the report summary and list of recommendations is available here.

The Joint Review Panel was mandated by Canada’s Minister of the Environment and BC’s Minister of Environment to assess Site C’s potential environmental, economic, social, heritage and health effects.

Among other findings, the Joint Review Panel concluded that:

  • it was unable to assess the accuracy of Site C project cost estimates, and recommended that such costs, including unit energy costs and revenue requirements, be referred to the BC Utilities Commission for detailed examination if Site C proceeds;
  • basing Site C on a 20-year demand forecast without an explicit 20-year forecast for electricity prices is not good practice given the potential reduction to electricity demand caused by future real rate increases, and recommended that (i) BC Hydro construct a reasonable long-term pricing model and update the associated load forecast and (ii) such forecasts be subject to a BCUC hearing before beginning construction of Site C;
  • a number of supply alternatives are competitive with Site C on a standard financial analysis, although Site C would produce less expensive power than any alternative in the long term;
  • it is unlikely that the transmission and liquefaction energy requirements of BC’s emerging liquefied natural gas industry will be satisfied by any source except natural gas itself, and therefore (i) the “Low Liquefied Natural Gas” scenario (corresponding to 823 GWh/year) described in BC Hydro’s Integrated Resource Plan is most likely correct and (ii) under this scenario available resources could provide adequate energy and capacity until at least 2028;
  • BC will need new energy and new capacity in the future, and Site C would be the least expensive alternative whose costs advantages would increase over time as inflation makes alternatives more costly; and
  • BC Hydro has not fully demonstrated the need for Site C on its proposed timetable.

The Joint Review Panel’s report also contains a number of conclusions and recommendations in relation to the environmental and social impacts of Site C, including impacts on First Nations.  Stay tuned for a more detailed analysis of these findings on this blog.

Both governments will now review the Joint Review Panel’s findings, and will each make a determination on the project, with their respective decisions under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act and BC’s Environmental Assessment Act to be made public within six months.