While the recently elected NDP government has kicked the controversial Site C hydro dam to the British Columbia Utilities Commission (BCUC) for review, the project is part of a larger disease afflicting public power utilities: megaprojects. If the track record of megaprojects is anything to go by, B.C. electricity customers should be very nervous.
The Site C dam exhibits many of the same traits afflicting other megaprojects: an undermining of the regulatory system that was explicitly put in place to protect consumers from reckless behaviour, accounting tricks that mask the real cost of the project and an explicit guarantee of a taxpayer bailout.
Like other megaprojects, the Site C dam never underwent a thorough review of its cost or need by the BCUC because the province explicitly exempted it. The province’s defence of that exemption was simply that it couldn’t allow a “a group of unelected bureaucrats and lawyers” at the BCUC to decide the fate of the project, even though it was that same regulator in the 1980s that ruled against Site C and led the government to shelve it.
Brady Yauch – Vancouver Sun – September 14.