Monopoly is a Bureaucrat's Friend but a Democrat's Foe

Friday 22 August 2014
Saskatchewan Community Wind: Op-Ed submitted to the Star Phoenix

Your article ('City Lacks Plan to Hit Emission Targets') noted that the City of Saskatoon's 'Energy and Sustainability Team' needs one more year to prepare a report to Council detailing their plan to correct deficiencies in the 2009 Greenhouse Gas plan so that it is possible to meet the plan for 2020. Is this for real?

Climate change is a real issue and there is a pressing need for action to address it. The only debate remaining is what to do. That camp is divided into those who are taking concrete action and those who obfuscate. The intent of the latter group is actively to prevent change while giving the opposite impression through endless studies and trial projects. The actions of the City of Saskatoon and of SaskPower, fall firmly into this latter camp.

Five years ago the City of Saskatoon released a perfectly good strategy for managing its Greenhouse Gas emissions: the 'Energy & Greenhouse Gas Management Plan'. 

It was that document - with its strong statements about the City's intent of working with the community to achieve significant Greenhouse Gas reductions - that caused us to seek to develop Canada's first 100 percent community-owned wind project 15 to 30 kilometres from Saskatoon. That project alone would have met 16 percent of the City's Greenhouse Gas targets and would have done so at no cost to the public purse. A couple more wind projects like it, policy change to encourage broad adoption of solar panels on houses, together with energy efficiency and other measures and hey presto: emission reductions met!

So what happened? The City administration sat on our project for over a year before deciding not to proceed. There was no dialogue with us and no justification for their decision. The outcome was puzzling at the time but, in hindsight, was only to be expected.

Only a few years ago the world's electricity system was dominated by large, centralized fossil-fuel generators controlled by lumbering corporates. The system worked in its day but is increasingly redundant due to distributed wind and solar, modular gas, Combined Heat and Power as well as the Internet, the Smart Grid and electric vehicles. Entrenched interests by definition resist the change that these new technologies bring and the monopolists at SaskPower and at Saskatoon Light & Power, are no different. 

Their resistance stems from concern that change will make them redundant. That is unfortunate since the opposite is true and they have a critical role to play as enablers and enhancers of the new electricity economy. However they will not naturally evolve to this role. In fact if left to their own devices they will forever seek to preserve their monopolies and, in so doing, they will crush competition, stifle innovation and depress economic growth. 

The change that is needed can only come from the Government by way of new policy. 

If that policy is not forthcoming then expect more strategic studies from the City of Saskatoon together with more smart meter debacles and carbon capture boondoggles from SaskPower.

Saskatchewan Community Wind. Friday 22 August 2014

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