It is scary to think I was barely four years old the last time a major hydroelectric dam was built in this province.
That was 28 years ago, back in 1984, when the Revelstoke dam was built on the Columbia River system. And nothing of significance has been added since then.
There were fewer than three million people living in B.C. in 1984 and more than enough power for them all.
Now, B.C.’s population is over 4.6 million and new uses for electricity pop up every day.
Unfortunately, you can only stretch an elastic band so far before it snaps which sums up the state of B.C.’s aging hydroelectric system.
Yes, my generation —i.e., today’s 30-somethings — has enjoyed low electricity rates for most of our adulthood courtesy of the previous generations in this province who built and paid for B.C.’s hydroelectric infrastructure.
It’s been the equivalent of having had a mortgage-free house handed to us.
However, that mortgage-free, low cost electricity production is rapidly coming face-to-face with the cost reality of major upgrades needed to keep this vital energy infrastructure safe and operational.
The John Hart dam and generating station in Campbell River is a prime example.
The facility dates from 1947.
Its generators are now old and in poor condition while the dam itself is a seismic risk.
Modernizing the facility is going to cost at least $1.35 billion and that cost is going to have to be reflected in the electricity rates we pay.
The same goes for the $718 to $857 million being spent on the 80 year old Ruskin dam built in the 1930’s.
I’m certainly not complaining about the major investment our generation now needs to make in our province’s vitally important hydroelectric infrastructure.
However, I’m definitely realizing what an incredible debt of gratitude we owe to the previous generations in this province for the investments they made, investments we’ve all benefitted from greatly and for such an incredibly long time.