Today, the proposed Site C 1,100 MW hydroelectric dam in northern British Columbia received environmental assessment (EA) approvals from both the Provincial [pdf] and Federal [pdf] Governments.
In issuing its EA certificate, two provincial ministers decided that that the mega-dam project is "in the public interest and that the benefits provided by the project outweigh the risks of significant adverse environmental, social and heritage effects." The provincial EA certificate sets out 77 legally-binding conditions.
For its part, the federal minister of environment issued an EA Decision Statement [pdf] setting out 80 conditions the project proponent must meet.
Certainly, obtaining environmental approval is major milestones for the project, but it must still receive a final investment decision (FID) from the BC Government, which according to media reports is expected before the end of 2014.
The decision for Government will not be an easy one. In face of viable cost-effective alternatives, the massive Site C construction project is directly competing for labour and materials with the nascent liquefied natural gas (LNG) projects whose proponents are preparing to make their own FIDs in the coming months. Timing is crucial and margins are thin. In addition, the $7.9B cost estimate of the project is over four years old and must properly be brought current, especially given today’s market realities.
For the BC renewable energy industry, major project development opportunities remain, including working with First Nations and supplying remote communities, electrifying the LNG industry and the numerous proposed mines around BC. The province has a tremendous bounty of clean and renewable energy resources and a history of developing them. At present, the private clean energy sector is ready, willing and able to invest in British Columbia, but for how long?