Are you using more electricity now than you were five years ago? Very few people are.
Have you noticed that most of the technology you are buying today uses so little electricity that it has a transformer to step the wall current down to a few volts of DC that it can sip on?
Talk of a future where we keep consuming ever more electricity is old-timey thinking - lazy, lacking in creativity and effort. It also denies the reality of decreasing demand and changing demographics.
The cheapest and best “source” of energy in the world today is needing less of it in the first place.
Wringing more work from each unit of energy is by far the biggest energy source in the economy. Every day we are using less energy and we're getting more work out of it thanks to new technology and great ideas. Raising energy productivity and modulating the demand side of the equation is an untapped gold mine. That’s where we should be investing - not in destroying someone else's river in Labrador.
An infectious idea is spreading rapidly through the world of electricity; the notion that power plants don’t have to be big and they may be better if they’re the right size in the right place at the right time. The ultimate idea of “distributed electricity generation” is that each community, home or building might generate its own power just like it generates its own heat. Better, these distributed demand-side generators can be linked in small grids to share electricity for profit and good works. Then these small grids can be linked to each other like fractals to create a level of energy independence and security impossible to achieve with big box, long distance, corporate electricity generation.
How far away is this idea? That’s up to us based on our investments, effort and creative thinking.
Great electricity systems will power the future. A great electricity system is renewable, diverse, distributed, resilient and customer-oriented. It integrates information and electricity. It shares. It is fractal and flexible to keep up with a fast changing world, efficiently absorbing new ideas and new sources of electricity big and small.
The next great energy system will evolve – quickly in the coming months and years – from the bottom up through radically broadened innovation in both power generation and storage. Not one solution. Thousands of solutions. That’s good business and good for the economy.
Think about how this will transform the electricity sector. The greatest threat to shareholder-owned electricity companies is disruptive technology driving customers to distributed generation.
The goals of electricity companies, consumers and society are not closely aligned. People have a sense of this but it’s worth saying out explicitly. Electricity companies, like all stock traded companies, are in the business of maximizing shareholder wealth by selling more electricity at ever-higher prices. There’s nothing inherently immoral about that, but those are not the goals of consumers and society. We want to use less electricity, more cheaply.
Today the electricity company has strong incentives to lock us into huge bet-the-farm long-term deals to keep government and consumers contracted and away from smaller-scale demand-side innovation. Electric companies’ corporate identities are built on the idea that they are safe long-term investments for shareholders. Everything they do is for the purpose of impressing that notion on shareholders.
Distributed generation and decreasing demand through new and efficient technology is a death spiral threat to big power companies.
If we allow the power company to lock us into long term bet-the-farm deals for power we will be left behind as more forward thinking countries from Algeria to Zambia benefit from fast-paced disruptive change to diversified distributed electricity generation. There is no “all of the above” compromise. If we let the power company lock us in we lose our incentive to innovate and our ability to participate in the innovation and great ideas of others.
We have to make a choice here and now in Nova Scotia: We allow the power company to lock our society into the past and the old ways of doing things for another generation, or we open ourselves up to the future of energy ideas and use our efforts and resources to ride ahead of the current.
The amount committed for the Muskrat Falls Maritime Link project was estimated to supply about 10% of NS current power consumption needs... and in doing so convey massive amounts of regular people's wealth out of Nova Scotia and into the hands of a very few for the next 35 years.
Here's my ideas:
1/ Let's fight the power
2/ Let's "pay" for that 10% by reducing our power consumption 10% over the next five years. Given the changing population and the ever improving electronics this is an easy goal - and it's free!
3/ Let's further reduce Nova Scotia's power consumption by another 23% within three years. How can that be possible? Shut down the government supported pulp mills. Save 23% of the power, improve NS global footprint AND save hundreds of millions in subsidies for poor investments.
4/ Take a small portion of that savings and invest in production assets - factories 2.0 - and in particular new sources of self-generated distributed energy production and storage. Tesla is already investing in a battery storage research lab and unique talent in Nova Scotia, the Jeff Dahn Research Lab, why shouldn't we?
5/ Give the rest of the savings back to tax payers to invest, save, spend and give away as they see fit.
6/ Let's have an open discussion through an election cycle with Nova Scotians about the future of the Power Company, the power vortex that is the UARB, and reforming Economic Development policy to limit government largesse and corporate profit extraction of our wealth so we can focus on productivity and prosperity through the best possible employment of our shared capital in Nova Scotia's next energy system.
Writing about life, citizenship, and Nova Scotia.