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COMMENTARY · 31st December 2013
Merv Ritchie
Originally Posted July 23, 2012
New - Video attached below
The claim is BC needs “Site C” to meet the power needs of the Province. The cost of construction and the loss of land due to flooding is questionable when 10,000 MW of available power without Site C has already been identified and discussed behind closed doors. It is curious then to listen to BC Hydro explain to elected representatives in the Northwest, they need this power for the LNG (Liquified Natural Gas) plants planned for Kitimat, BC.

This identified power is already here in the Northwest, not at a poorly conceived dam site on the other side of the Rocky Mountains. Further, LNG plants almost always produce their own power from the gas they all ready own and are marketing.

BC Hydro’s representatives, Leslie Wood and Robert Smith appeared at the Regional District Kitimat Stikine on June 22, 2012. Smith is a Project Manager and he delivered an extensive presentation on the proposed changes to the power grid between Prince George and Terrace as well as the grid between Terrace and Kitimat. Smith detailed all the weaknesses of the system and the proposals to fix them in incremental stages.

The proposed new Dam and power plant (Site ‘C’) on the Peace River is on the eastern foothills of the Rockies bordering on the Prairies. Site’s A and B are the currently running sites on the Peace River now called the WAC Bennett and the Gordon M Shrum Dams. BC Premier WAC Bennett was critiqued harshly at the time these were being constructed for building a system far too big. Today the reality of his forward thinking is respected and admired as we now require even more power. Site ‘C’ is likely too costly and destructive when much more power is closer and cheaper.

Major power consumers are being identified in Northwest BC. Kitimat has been selected as a port for three LNG plants and it was these plants Smith suggested may need this new power. To get the power to Kitimat, the 500 KV line between Prince George and Terrace would first be upgraded with numerous capacitor sites installed at locations between substations. These are required now to maintain stability in the power supply. Next they are considering building a second 500 KV line along side the existing one.

The other consideration is the line between the Terrace Substation and the Kitimat Substation. It is far too small for the power being transmitted today, most of which is exported from the Kemano power generation facilities. BC Hydro is presently in the process of upgrading this line however the route is very limited. They propose to build an entirely new 500KV line on the west side of Lakelse Lake to a new substation at Kitimat.

The two new proposed 500 KV transmission lines, PG to Terrace and Terrace to Kitimat are clearly forward looking proposals. The questions we asked Wood and Smith however were about the new 287 KV Northwest Transmission line.

If the British Columbia Government is interested in developing the north, opening up the region for mining and resource development, the 287 KV line is analogous to putting a speed limit switch on a race car. Even today, before one transmission line tower is stood up, potential miners are told there will not be enough power to meet their needs. If WAC Bennett thinking was employed we would be planning for two more 500 KV lines from Prince George and twinning the new 500 KV line to Kitimat. And the more serious matter is at the other end of the 287 KV line presently being constructed to the new substation at Bob Quinn Lake on Highway 37.

Just west of Bob Quinn Lake, on the Iskut Valley towards Southeast Alaska, is the new Forest Kerr Hydro Electric facility. This new 200 MW plant is presently being constructed on the Iskut River. In comparison the Kemano power project produces over 800 MW and Site C is estimated to be able to produce 1100 MW.

The completion date of Forest Kerr is expected to be the same time as the completion of the new Northwest Transmission line, 2014.

All of this power is required for the new mines and developments proposed for the north, but it is not enough power and furthermore the Northwest transmission grid is not big enough to deliver the power to the future developments. WAC Bennett thinking would demand at least a 500 KV Grid to the Bob Quinn Substation and with this the real potential comes alive; 10,000 MW of power just a short distance away, a few more miles west past the Forest Kerr Hydro-electric Project is Southeast Alaska.

If a North American grid connection was made available the Alaskans could provide more capacity than British Columbians would know what to do with. Overly optimistic estimates suggest 10,000 MW could be made available if an export grid was connected. Pessimistic estimates suggest 3,000 MW. This potential is clearly three times the capacity of Site ‘C’ and is relatively close to the end user compared to the other side of the Rocky Mountains. The difference however is remarkable. SE Alaska has both Hydro Electric and Thermal Energy sources, both clean and green with very little storage required; no loss of farm lands and no large footprint of ecological consequences.

In 2006 the Governor of Alaska devoted $3.2 million to study the proposal to inter-tie to the BC power grid. In December 2010, North Coast Power initiated a study to design the route from the Bob Quinn substation to Tyee Lake in SE Alaska near the Bradfield Canal. Their present plan is to construct a twin 138 KV power line. This would provide for some redundancy in case one line failed. This however is also inadequate though they are on the right track.

Read more on this proposal here

It would take years to construct the site ‘C’ dam just as it would take years to construct new facilities in Alaska along with the interconnections from the various power sources. The difference is; one is easy, clean and close to the needs and the other is facing massive opposition, is costly and destructive to the local environment.

When asked, Ms. Wood attempted to suggest all the Alaskans wanted to do was ‘Wheel’ the power to the lower 48 states. This displays a lack of understanding of power. The power grid can be explained by a simple analogy.

It is like a swimming pool, a massive body of water. People are standing all around it, some adding water some taking it out. The amount they add or take is measured accurately. If you take out more than you put in you might have to pay. If you add more than you take you get paid for your efforts. If your friend is on the other end of the pool taking out water as you are adding it, and those amounts are equal, the only amount you have to pay is rent for using the pool. And this is what is referred to as “Wheeling’ power. It is not separate power, it is all the same. If the WAC Bennett or Mica Dam facilities in BC are producing power, adding to the grid California is using, and Alaska is adding power to the Northwest Transmission grid, then the 500 KV lines between Prince George and Terrace will not be overly taxed. The power used at the mines in Northwest BC will be Alaskan power while the entire North American grid remains stable.

If BC Hydro considered this as an alternative their preparations for a second Prince George to Terrace 500 KV line could be put on hold while they spend the time and money to assist in connecting to even more power from Alaska.

The miners need the power and they cannot wait forever. Seabridge Gold Executive VP Jay Layman is the first to have expressed his dismay at BC Hydro not being able to meet his projects needs. He will have to burn diesel fuel to supplement their power requirements.

When we inquired, Woods stated Alaska has not asked to interconnect to the BC Hydro Grid system. This is an astounding statement as efforts have been underway for years by Alaskans and Canadians to make this happen. The Alaska Energy Authority has been encouraged by the State Governor with money and commitments, the Alaska-Canada Energy (ACE) Coalition has this as their primary objective and the Central Council of the Alaskan Haida Tlingit First Nations has supported the concept. As late as 2011, BC Hydro has had individuals attend meetings with the Alaskans to debate the technical and logistical aspects of these proposals. Either Woods is being kept out of the loop or BC Hydro is purposefully obfuscating the issues.

Regional District Kitimat Stikine Director from Telegraph Creek asked Woods directly about the power available in Alaska, “Somewhere in the equation has it been taken into account the potential for power in the Alaska Panhandle, down the road, for a transmission line?”

Woods replied, “We’re still in the same situation as we always have been, director Brocklebank, we’ve never received a formal request for interconnection from the Alaskan Panhandle so no we do not count on power from the Alaska Panhandle in our plans.”

Not a formal request for interconnection yet numerous engagements to debate the matter and dozens of letters and meetings. It is almost as if BC Hydro is attempting to pretend the massive Alaskan energy potential does not exist.

Electrical energy, like oil is an international finance game. The difficulty the citizens of BC face is BC Hydro was virtually sold to Accenture, an offshore Bermuda corporation that only has finances as their bottom line. Their role is to “manage” BC Hydro. They likely want to buy the power cheap from Alaska and sell it back at a huge mark-up. Like a middle man in the swimming pool, greedy and fat on a deluxe yacht drinking martinis, while the men and women are out finding ways to add water to the pool for others who are using the water to create industry for the good of society.

Is it this situation that has BC proposing a massively destructive and expensive project like “Site C” with an additional 500 KV grid from Prince George to Terrace? This over a reasoned approach to the shortage of available power to fuel industry in the northwest?

Is BC Hydro thumbing their nose at Alaska’s resources, holding back on the necessary 500 KV grid to Bob Quinn and the larger substation in a poker game of Texas Hold em? Who will blink first? Alaska requires the grid to develop their resources. BC Hydro (Accenture) is not cooperating. Will it take the Alaskans offering to sell the power at a cut rate to get BC Hydro to provide a reasonable Grid connection?

The mining industry needs a 500 KV grid to Bob Quinn. Every full production mine requires firm, stable and lots of electricity. We need to build for the future like WAC Bennett did. BC Hydro is no longer considering the interests of British Columbians, it is playing a game. Is it Chicken or Texas hold ‘em, who’s bluffing, who will blink first? Is Site ‘C’ part of the bluff game? Are all citizens, Alaskan and British Columbians being played as pawns in the international energy finance game?

The cost of Site C is estimated to be between $8 and $10 billion. Is the BC Government and BC Hydro sitting at the table now with a bet of ten billion dollars against Alaska not accepting to sell their power at a poor rate? Alaska will build their own power plants to produce three times as much power as Site C would produce, if BC would just spend a tenth of the cost of Site C and build the grid.

The nine billion dollars in savings, let alone saving the Peace River Valley, would easily make up for a good rate to “Wheel” the power. But maybe BC Hydro (Accenture) doesn't want to rent space in the pool, they might prefer to to buy the power at one end and sell it at the other for an unreasonable markup, and we all suffer.

A thoughtful and forward thinking plan by BC Hydro, a company interested in the best for BC, would build at a minimum, a 500 KV Substation at Bob Quinn and redesign the NTL to 500 KV while preparing a 500 KV line for SE Alaska. A new substation could be built in Terrace (it is required) and the second 500 KV line for export could all be constructed with the massive savings from not building ‘Site C’.

A highway to the Bradfield Canal for a Port to take out the mined resources would be the next thought, it is a deep water port and the residents of SE Alaska have also been planning a ferry terminal at this location. But that is another story.

Details on discussions with Alaska Canada Energy Coalition

Previous story on the same subject here

More on Kemano power and transmission lines here

This links to an article on more NW power projects including the Highway proposal to the Bradfield Canal

First work required for grid between Prince George and Terrace to increase stability and reliability
First work required for grid between Prince George and Terrace to increase stability and reliability
Next work is the substation upgrades and or replacement
Next work is the substation upgrades and or replacement
The final consideration is an entirely new 500 KV line through to Kitimat with capacitor sites and a new substation near Kitimat
The final consideration is an entirely new 500 KV line through to Kitimat with capacitor sites and a new substation near Kitimat
The Bradfield Canal and SE Alaska with the details of the proposed highway, powerlines and export facilities. Follow the links above for details.
The Bradfield Canal and SE Alaska with the details of the proposed highway, powerlines and export facilities. Follow the links above for details.
Comment by Paul Repstock on 4th January 2014
If I remember correctly, the main justification in the original Site C proposal, was for its contribution to NAWAPA (If you don't know what that is, slap yourself)
I have been warning Americans for years that they should not allow or promote NAWAPA justifications. The day that project is signed into being, is the last day Americans will be free to use their own water!
honestly without a word of a lie
Comment by blocky bear on 24th July 2012
Wee the people are bombarded daily with half truths,misdirection and outright fraudulent statements. Most people I know are kept busy trying to earn a living and do not have the time or money to sort propaganda. I do fear for the future. This is a truth. d.b.