Informed citizens often exchange information that deserves a wider audience. Here is part of an exchange about generation and distribution of electricity. It began with this:
When the Grid with all generators is under one ownership (like the old Ontario Hydro days) things are under good control because generation, transmission lines and load control are under one house.
Yes, there is a negative side to it (monopoly) but believe me, the technical side is under good control.
Well, then there was the mood with politicians to end the monopoly and “de-regulate” electric energy. Everything was split up; grid company was separate, generators were separated and so on.
The loser here is the stability of the grid…
Economist Erik Andersen responded:
Essentially there is a need to make critical and efficient supply side decisions to control the whole at one place. That has been the rationale behind the creation of natural monopolies and Utility Commissions were to ride herd to look after the public interest.
This model has worked in places in North America but over the past 100 years has not worked correctly in all places. New York, probably one of the oldest NA cities to electrify , has customer rates 4 times greater than Montreal. Both cities lived through the same time period and had access to the same technologies yet the rate gap is huge.
Utility Commissions are made up of industry insiders, who, being human, are obliging to their friends. The patch-work of rates in NA suggests that politics has had the greatest influence rather than technology and a balanced market.
What should be, as you suggest, is in many places not so and BC is one example.
We know Gordon Campbell crafted a story that people in BC should have enough domestic generation capacity to cover the most extreme shortage of water we could imagine. Like any unethical insurance salesman he consciously omitted telling the public what certainty of supply in a highly unlikely year would cost.
We know from the Auditor General that BC Hydro had $58 billion of contractual obligations in 2016, plus $6 billion of other payables known as regulatory assets, plus another $10.6 billion for Site C , plus $22.8 billion of long-term debt , plus $4.1 billion of current liabilities.
This total of over $100 billion is 10 times greater than the BCH total liability condition in 2005 yet in the same period there was no increase in domestic demand, as measured by reported sales.
Most professions in my experience would take legal action against such unethical misconduct, but no, they and the NDP are looking for ways to skate by the issue like happened with Enron.
This story is not BC unique so it is little wonder people are now looking to technology to see if there is a way of escaping the tyranny of abusive monopolies. It is my opinion that folks will learn to manage their electricity needs so as to conform to its availability from green sources.
Long ago I learned that there was little point to deploying a big jet if it was you just imposing your requirements on the market/customers . We used to call those airlines who practiced this kind of business “legacy carriers”. It was not a term of respect but rather one of disrespect.
Large electric utilities are like those “legacy carriers”; some will remake themselves, like Air Canada did, but blow away all their retained earnings before doing so, and others like PanAm will fade away, leaving financial wreckage in their wake, Enron style.
Roger Bryenton added:
My observation, is that these utilities were stuck in the old paradigm of “we supply power”.
They were slow or refused to accept that intermittent sources were “legitimate” power supplies, and thus did very little other than try to manage intermittency, and not very effectively. They did not see themselves as facilitators and integrators.
Nor does BC Hydro even today. According to them, conservation was, and still is, not a valid power management and supply option. Otherwise, why spend billions on new supply?
Over 40 years ago I helped sponsor a demonstration project with load management integral to the supply. We prioritized the loads: lights, computers, then fridges, then other appliances, and lastly electric ovens, clothes dryers and finally water heaters. We managed the 30% plus “peak loads” by reducing them, instead of adding unneeded peaking.
Thus I would observe and possibly criticize the large utilities for “managing” by overbuilding, and not really managing. Utilities are very good at building and grossly over-spending, eg BCH burns through 30% of revenue, finding ways to squander our bill payments.
BIGGER IS BETTER. REALLY BIGGER IS EVEN REALLY BETTER!!!
Thus the problems were not in supplies of renewables with intermittency characteristics, but in not supplying current and progressive thinking, and solutions, to the non-problem of supply and grid stability. \
Diligent conservation programs ought to have been implemented earlier. That is “the problem”. With new attitudes, utilities, including BC Hydro, need to adapt to the paradigm of integration and facilitation.
Their focus on the asset building role must change.