More Green Options for Saskatchewan
In our efforts to live green, and encourage our society to do likewise, we realized that there was a crucial opportunity being missed by our local crown corporation. A crown corporation is owned by the people of a country, province, or state, and to some extent controlled politically by the government of the area. In this article we are discussing a crown corporation in our home province of Saskatchewan, SaskPower. It is our public electricity utility, charged with a mandate of providing affordable electricity to support the development of Saskatchewan.
While citizens have some ability to support green initiatives with SaskPower, there are some additional restrictions. In Saskatchewan for instance, we can buy green power, but SaskPower as of the writing of this article is currently no longer selling green power (it is sold out)1 . There are also relatively few private firms doing renewable development nearby for us to invest in. There are so few private firms because the vast majority of power infrastructure is owned by SaskPower, which in turn is owned by the people of Saskatchewan. This is not necessarily a bad thing, it just means that we only have one real avenue of local large-scale green power development.
So what do we do as citizens who want to support green energy development? Well, we have been lobbying the government and trying to inform the public. An informed public is what we believe is the key to helping our province move in a positive direction. The website you see in front of you represents a major part of our effort to inform the public on these issues.
What more do we want from SaskPower?
We want the ability to directly support the development of renewable electricity generation. We don’t just mean buying GreenPower from sources that already exist. We want to be able to choose to put our money out there so that these things can actually happen. We want to support projects that haven’t yet been built, or even started.
There are undoubtedly economies of scale involved in the deployment of power infrastructure. To access these economies of scale, governments, cooperatives, or large corporations have to foot the bill. In Saskatchewan, we have a legacy of public ownership of our infrastructure that many of us enjoy. To continue this trend into the near future, some possible expansions of the citizen’s involvement may be advantageous.
Let’s say that SaskPower is interested in adding more wind power to the province. Instead of opening up a request for proposals from the wind industry like they currently do, they would instead make their own proposal for a wind farm (perhaps similar to the well-built Centennial Wind Farm). A branch of SaskPower would have created power cost estimates, timelines, and collected all the relevant data. They would then present it to the public in a clear and approachable manner, asking for direct investment from the public. The people of Saskatchewan could then choose whether they want to support it with money from their own pockets. If enough people pledge their money, construction ensues under the control of SaskPower but with funds drawn directly (and voluntarily) from the public. Since these people have invested, they would see some return on investment in the form of electricity for the future lifetime of the project. If the investors made a smart choice, they will see good returns on their investment.
This is a better choice than personal construction of power infrastructure because of the economies of scale involved. One dollar spent on a large project will generally produce much more generating capacity than one dollar invested in a small scale project.
We advocate an approach like this because we know that there are a lot of interested individuals in our society who would love to take a more active role in their energy future. Investment such as this would have the guarantee of reliability because of the fact that it is publicly owned and operated through SaskPower. It would have the additional quality of being an opportunity for citizens of Saskatchewan to invest directly in an effort to secure their own energy futures.
In Saskatchewan, if a person buys responsibility for about one to two kilowatts of steady power generation (or the equivalent), they have provided for their energy resource for the lifetime of their investment. In terms of renewable sources, we have some decent longevity of sources. For example, wind turbines are currently expected to last at least 20 years, and hydroelectric plants around 60 years, depending on the specific project.
On a personal note, I would love to be able to buy into such projects as gifts. For instance, if I want to give a long-term present to a child, I could buy in a couple thousand dollars into a renewable power system. This is a gift that I can stand by as being money well spent on truly investing in the future! The goal is that their energy future has been taken care of for the lifetime of the power project. The child when in middle school might be very interested to go see the place where his or her electricity has been coming from. She/he would own some part of that infrastructure, making them identify with it that much more strongly. I believe that this is would be an important step towards taking responsibility for our energy future as a society. I also believe that being able to directly invest in this manner will encourage citizens to take such an opportunity to secure the energy future of their loved ones in the forthcoming generations.