26 July 2012

Managing Electricity Demand #nlpoli

Nalcor’s forecast for electricity demand on the island of Newfoundland doesn’t really show a massive increase over the next couple of decades.

Earlier this year, Memorial University economist Jim Feehan suggested that one alternative to Muskrat Falls was demand management.  That is, he suggested that Nalcor try some ways of getting people to use less electricity.

Wade Locke, Feehan’s colleague, and staunch supporter of Muskrat Falls, laced into Feehan. He dismissed Feehan at the time and, by extension, the role conservation might have as part of a comprehensive energy policy in the province.  Locke did change his mind.

Equally dismissive of demand management, Nalcor boss Ed Martin tried on some pretty vicious rhetoric about old people and freezing in response to Feehan.

Feehan isn’t  the only knowledgeable person who has talked about the value of managing public demand for electricity by promoting conservation.  David Vardy, once the province’s  top public servant, had a similar idea.

For all that, Nalcor and the the provincial government people just reject out of hand any talk of changing demand.  They are building Muskrat Falls, you see.

In other provinces, ones where the energy company does not have the political backing Nalcor enjoys, energy companies couldn’t get away with such an attitude. New Brunswick Power has signed a deal with Siemens to promote the use of things like programmable thermostats as a way to reduce power consumption.

As CBC reported:

“This partnership presents us with the unique opportunity to showcase Siemens’ world-class smart grid technology and expertise with a fully integrated and innovative utility like NB Power,” Mrosik said in a statement.

The idea behind smart grids is that it gives customers more control over how they use electricity. The system would give customers incentives to use power at non-peak times, such as at night, when there is less demand.

Mrosik said this technology could lead to lower bills and lower emissions from power plants.

Do we need the power from Muskrat Falls? 


Is Muskrat falls the lowest cost option for providing the electricity we need?

Not really. A combination of measures, including demand management using sophisticated technology, would likely be a lot cheaper for consumers.