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British Columbia mega dam behind schedule, over budget -regulator

VANCOUVER, Nov 1 (Reuters) - A C$9 billion ($7 billion) hydroelectric dam under construction in British Columbia is over budget and a year behind schedule, the province's power regulator said on Wednesday but declined to recommend whether the project should go ahead or be scrapped.

The Site C dam project will flood more than 5,000 hectares (19 square miles) of land, the equivalent of about 5,000 rugby fields, spurring opposition from local farmers and indigenous groups.

The British Columbia Utilities Commission said in a review that the least attractive option was to suspend and restart the Site C project, as that could add billions to the final costs.

British Columbia's former Liberal government approved the project in 2014, saying it would help meet a surge in electricity needs over the next 20 years. It did not ask the regulator for a review.

The province's new NDP government, which ousted the Liberals earlier this year, made a campaign promise to get the regulator's view.

The report said the Liberal government's assumption of future power needs were optimistic and warned that "combined with a continued glut in North American energy markets, this could make it increasingly difficult to sell Site C surplus energy."

Alternative energy sources such as wind and geothermal could result in lower power costs than Site C, it said.

The NDP government is expected to make a final decision on the dam by year-end.

Companies from around the world are involved in the construction. Peace River Hydro Partners, jointly owned by Acciona SA and Samsung C&T, was awarded the C$1.75 billion contract for civil works, and is bidding for the generating station and spillway contract. Canada's Aecon is part of a joint venture also bidding on a generating station and spillway contract.

Canada's Atco was awarded an 8-year, C$470 million contract for worker accommodations, while privately held German company Voith Hydro won the C$470 million contract for turbines and generators. ($1 = 1.2873 Canadian dollars) (Reporting by Nicole Mordant and Julie Gordon in Vancouver; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)