THE GATEWAY • volume C number I
Energy infrastructure burnt out
U<K “Having no competition has left us simultaneously
under tlireat of blackouts and paying some of the
highest power bills in the country'. Deregulating
meant weve lost control over when power plants are
built, even when they’re desperately needed."
S o. as you’re probably aware if
you follow the latest in energy
information news, an offi¬
cial for Alberta’s Utilities Consumer
Advocate recently quit. Now. having
shed the constraints of having pure
evil muzzling him, he can take it
upon himself to warn the public
directly that our siay-the-course
march towards fully deregulated
power will ’’crush" them. Despite
past promises of low prices. Alberta
has proven to have a power market
almost designed to fail.
Decades of infrastructure neglect
makes it excruciating for new
competition to move in. Just as we
don’t expect to find a Walmart in a
deserted plain, a power plant won’t
build where the wires don’t run.
Now in a frantic rush to catch up.
we’re told to prepare to be hit by a
sudden absurdly expensive trans¬
mission expansion. But even if our
decrepit system is spiffed up with
something that is bigger or better,
utilities are still scared shitless to
Our ultrasensitive boom-and-bust
economy may be fantastic for inves¬
tors who can cash out anytime, but
it’s not hot for someone backing a
billion-dollar plant over 30 years.
The fact of the matter is. no one
knows whether the next oilsands
project will flood the market with a
bevy of impossibly cheap electricity
made from waste energy, or drain
our grid to near-emptiness, push¬
ing up power prices. As a result,
having no competition has left us
simultaneously under the threat of
blackouts and paying some of the
highest power bills the country has
ever seen. Deregulating ultimately
meant we’ve lost control over when
power plants are built, even when
they’re desperately needed.
We were supposed to be able to
shop around for the better prices,
but energy retailers are just as pet¬
rified of our fragile power grid. We
now have a choice of a handful of
sleaze-bag militias who can only
survive by going door-to-door hus¬
tling folks with outrageous energy
contracts. They don’t know if vola¬
tile market prices are going to be
low next week, or whether they
have to pay for imported power just
to fight off the dreaded threat of a
So they take the path of least
resistance for them; they sign you
up to five years of monstrous cal¬
culus-textbook-like prices to ensure
they can cover their own bills. Even
here in these deep city lights, our
Edmonton-based utilities won’t save
us. as EPCOR intelligently refuses to
play the demented game of selling
It’s not that having fluctuat¬
ing power prices is a sin. but the
energy barons could at least go out
of their way a smidge to make it
useful to us. When power demand
is high during the day, new plants
go all out and dirty old plants fire
up, sending costs soaring. Earlier
or later in the day. the system eases
up and runs more efficiently as
power demand and prices plum¬
met. “Smart Meters” currently used
in Ontario and California would
let us slash our bills by doing the
dishes at 8 p.m. rather than 6 p.m.
Klein and Stelmacb’s developmen¬
tal!)' delayed loveebild of a system
struggles to tell time, charging us
the same price day or night.
Sure, we could tough out the
occasional blackout, and generously
spread our wealth by buying more
power from British Columbia. We
could man up to door-to-door util¬
ity con-men and agree to ludicrous
contracts, knowing their busy-
work feeds their family, at least.
We could even wash our delic.ates
late at night, burning the midnight
oil. all to let the grid run more fuel
efficiently, and marginally lower¬
ing society's overall power costs.
And all of this happening, unfor¬
tunately. without any real personal
financial benefit. But if this is the
best that the PCs can offer us with
deregulation, how are we better
off than with the socialist systems
THIS week's question:
"How many courses are you registered in for the fall term?"
"What’s the maximum price you’d pay for a
booth-hawked cheeseburger and soda during
Week of Welcome?"
As a vegan, your poll offends my sensibilities. (17%)
$6.99 (I'd better get a toy.) (1%)
S4.25 (For a good cause) (18%)
$3.75 (That's about average, right?) (22%)
S2.50 (I'm a cheapskate.) (42%)
TOTAL responses: 78
vote online at
LETTERS • CONTINUED FROM PAGE 12
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