Posted by: Rob | June 2, 2009

Alberta Government Strikes Again

I know I shouldn’t be amazed or surprised any more but there’s more unbelievable activity afoot with the Alberta Government again with even more plans to take the average Albertan to the cleaners.

Way back at the turn of the last century, then Premier Ralph Klein had the wild idea to de-regulate the utilities.  This plan was sold (although there weren’t many buyers) under the auspices that a de-regulated environment would introduce competition to the “market” and result in savings for the “consumer”.  Yeah, right.

I thought then, and still believe now, that home heating fuel and power are not things that people can choose to do with or without, depending upon their affordability at any given time.  And, believe me, this de-regulation nonsense caused some pretty wild gyrations in utility bills around the province.  It certainly didn’t help when crooks like Enron*, and their imitators, got in on the action.

Here’s a brief outline of what de-regulation “did” for us:

  • Prior, an electric bill was a simple affair.  There was a line for how many kwh’s you used (and back then it was about 3.5 cents/kwh), the tax and your total.  It was all in, so to speak.
  • After, the electric bill is a horrendously detailed and complicated thing.   There are two separate entities demanding payment now: the electricity generator and the electricity “transmitter”.   Each payee has multiple lines of various charges, some of which almost defy description.  To make matters worse, there are adjustments from month to month of how much power was actually used and endless succession of credits and charges until all of you can be sure of is that you are getting hosed.

The government sold off all of the formerly publicly owned transmission lines and hardware (I don’t know what they did with the money).  That’s when they split the utility up into electricity generators and the “wires and lines” companies that convey the electricity from the power plant to your house.

Now that the transmission systems are all privately owned, there is no more “incentive” to build new systems.  Why?  Because it’s capital intensive and there’s no way to make that capital pay.  When it was publicly owned, we just went and built and paid for it ourselves.

Well, guess what?  We’re still going to pay for it, but now the costs will be horrendous and it will be largely helping corporate entities realize big profits with no risk.  Sweet deal, huh?

According to this article in the Sun, our power bills will be going up an average of $8 per month to fund these infrastructure additions.

David Erickson, president of the Alberta Electric System Operator, says the upgrades are necessary because no major projects have been built in the last 20 years.

Alberta introduced legislation Monday to give the government more control over critically needed power lines that are to be built under an older policy that will make consumers pay the full cost of the projects.

Jim Wachowich of the Consumers’ Coalition of Alberta said Bill 50 must ensure that projects undergo a cost-benefit analysis to ensure that Albertans who are paying the cost are getting value for their money.

He said this will be especially important if private power companies in Alberta ever generate enough electric power for export.

A-ha!  Power for export?  We’ve been there, done that and have the t-shirt empty pockets to show for it.  It was a little something called the “postage stamp” rate and it applied to natural gas.  Essentially, Alberta residents who used natural gas paid extra on every monthly bill to fund the construction of pipelines that would ultimately be used to move Alberta natural gas out of the province!  Of course, our ultimate reward for that was the Alliance pipeline and wresting control of setting our natural gas price out of our own hands and giving it over to the jackals in New York City.  Yeah, thanks!  I always wanted the price for a critical commodity set by a bunch of yee-haw dollar chasers in a foreign country!

It’s really too bad that running for office is fraught with trials and tribulations that deter the smartest, sanest people from standing for election.  I guess we really do get the government we deserve.

Now, where did I put that “How-to” book on getting off the grid?

* If you haven’t seen “Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room” and you have any interest in this kind of thing, I highly recommend this documentary.

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Responses

  1. aaargh! seems we’ve exported a big ol’ bucket of stupid to our neighbors to the north.

    you should consider sending this in as an OpEd piece, or at least to those elect-tards who made this happen…

  2. Rob– Friend of mine once said, “The world is run by C students,” and I think he was being generous. Nowhere is it more apparent than in government. Why is the U.S. importing more oil from you folks than we can produce and refine ourselves? (Hint: Idiots in charge of regulating the industry.)

    Daisy– We meet again! The U.S. imported a big ol’ bucket of stupid for ourselves as well, but not from Canada.

  3. I have lived with both publicly owned and privately owned utilities companies. I’ll go with public every time. I am so glad that Seattle generates its own hydroelectric power, and we never did get caught in the Enron scam. Snohomish county, to our north, did. All those tapes of traders bragging they are robbing granny were brought to you by a lawsuit by Snohomish county. Thank them sometime.


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