Friday, 13 June 2008

EPCOR and Foreshadowing

Beware: sarcasm ahead!

While listening to the news on the way home from work yesterday, and while driving to work this morning, spokesperson for the local electricity company, EPCOR, warned us all that power outages were a certainty sooner rather than later. He stated that our population has doubled and Alberta absolutely needs more transmission lines immediately, preferably yesterday, and that without them we'll all be in the dark in short order. His sound bites on the radio were full of urgency and anger, saying haughtily that Alberta shouldn't conduct itself this way -- it's like continuing to drive your car around when the low fuel light is blinking and you just keep ignoring it. The implication being that you should stop and fill up, you idiot! And, that we should just stop and build more transmission lines you idiot! Or we're all going to be freezing/boiling in the dark/light here any minute!! Be afraid, be very afraid!

Now, am I just suspicious and cynical or is EPCOR laying the groundwork for Nuclear Power! to come in and save the day? Ya sure, they're talking about transmission lines now, but with all that population growth it isn't just new transmission lines that we're going to need is it? It's more electrical capacity, to send down those bright shiny new wires. A few brownouts and blackouts or, horror of horrors, being asked to cut down your own personal power use, will convince people that of course we need more power plants, and thank goodness there is this nice power company just waiting patiently to build us a nice new power plant. And not a coal power plant, oh no. Alberta is way too 'green' for that, we'll build a nuclear plant, right here where we've been considering putting one all along, while we go through this open and transparent consultation process with the good sheeple of Alberta.

Whew, that was close! We almost had to cut down our consumption of something! Good thing we finally woke up and saw that metaphorical fuel light blinking and whipped into the nearest filling station before that last drop of fuel ran dry (or maybe that blinking warning light ain't so metaphorical?). Thanks Mr. EPCOR man, for scaring me into realizing that I need a nuclear power plant! Don't those come with hundreds of years worth of toxic waste though? Oh, don't worry my little head about that? Oh. Ok then.

Picture courtesy the Humble Narrator


DC said...

I read recently that in the U.S., nuclear power contributes only 20 - 22% of our electricity, yet we waste or inefficiently use between 25% - 44% of all electricity generated.

Efficiency measures are not only a safer way to meet our energy needs, but they're less costly. According to a study done by the Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI), using even the most optimistic estimates for the price of new nuclear electricity and the most conservative figures on the cost of generating new megawatts, efficiency still replaces 2.5 times as much fossil-fuel electricity for every new dollar invested -- hence, efficiency stops 2.5 times as many molecules of CO2 from entering the atmosphere. More optimistic estimates have efficiency outpacing nuclear by a factor of 10.

Nuclear is also less cost effective at reducing CO2 emissions than certain green energy sources. According to RMI, "Firmed windpower and cogeneration are 1.5 times more costeffective than nuclear at displacing CO2."

Okay, it is important to have a stable transmission system, particularly if electric cars make it into the mainstream (though, it's possible that even then, the bulk of the charging would occur at night, during off peak hours, and there wouldn't be a need for many more transmission lines). But expanding the grid (and building new power plants --- even green ones) should be done only after efficiency and conservation measures have been fully implemented.

Anonymous said...

I am so with you on the suspicion. The head guy at the electrical power company is warning us all that we desperately need more power? Gee, conflict of interest anybody?

We have a similar issue here with our completely out-of-whack real estate market. The "experts" are telling us that what happened in the US can't happen here. Those experts work for the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corp and other related businesses.

Honestly, the more one learns the more cynical one becomes!

Theresa said...

Thanks for that link dc - it will help a lot when I talk to people about how nuclear is not the way to go. People just don't seem to get that not using something in the first place is way cheaper than any alternative, no matter how 'green'!

RA, I am becoming very cynical these days that's for sure. I never thought about it from the conflict of interest perspective, but you're right - what else would the ceo of a power company say?