British Columbia Premier Christy Clark has approved BC Hydro's plans for the 1,100-MW Site C hydropower plant, ending speculation that the provincial government might forego the project in lieu of other alternatives.
The controversial US$7.7 billion project, which is to be located on the north bank of the Peace River in northern British Columbia, was selected primarily over uncertainties due to the future of natural gas prices through the next 20 years.
"Affordable, reliable, clean electricity is the backbone of British Columbia's economy," Clark said. "Site C will support our quality of life for decades to come and will enable continued investment and a growing economy."
Site C, which is part of British Columbia's plan to meet what it anticipates will be a 40% increase in the province's demand for power over the coming two decades, was granted final environmental approvals in October.
Since then, however, the proposal faced legal opposition from a number of groups, including the Treat 8 Tribal Association and Peace Valley Landowners Association -- both of which have filed motions against Site C in recent months.
BC Hydro said construction on Site C will begin in Summer 2015 and will create about 10,000 jobs over eight years of work.
The hydroelectric plant is designed to generate power for at least a century, the company said, and is expected to save ratepayers an average of $560 million to $773 million per year over the first half of its life, compared to alternatives.
"Today's announcement is a historic milestone and we look forward to building this important provincial project," said Susan Yurkovich, BC Hydro executive vice president in charge of Site C. "We will continue to work with First Nations, communities and landowners to ensure that we deliver on our commitments and realize the many benefits of this project."
Site C will be the third hydroelectric project on the Peace River in northeastern British Columbia, joining 2,730-MW G.M. Shrum and 694-MW Peace Canyon Dam. In 1976, BC Hydro chose Site C for potential development after finding Peace River Sites A, B, D, and E were not viable.