Investing in the Green & White – Why Not in Green Power?

At yesterday’s Saskatchewan Roughrider game, Premier Wall announced provincial funding for a new stadium: an $80-million grant and a $100-million loan to be repaid over time through a surcharge on tickets. While it’s unclear why a stadium should be anywhere near the top of the priority list, a readiness to invest in public infrastructure is positive.

The province could generate more renewable electricity with a similar commitment: an initial capital investment by SaskPower plus a modest additional cost for consumers. Much as football fans will pay more for a new stadium, renewables may mean slightly higher rates for electricity users (which could be offset through compensatory transfers to low-income households). Furthermore, some forms of renewable power like hydro and large-scale wind that are already price-competitive with fossil fuels would not necessarily even entail higher rates.

In any case, the government has already shown itself willing to raise SaskPower rates, which were announced (perhaps not coincidentally) just a few days before the new stadium. As SOS Crowns noted, an important factor driving up rates was likely the policy of paying private operators to generate additional electricity rather than making the needed investments through SaskPower.

Given the Sask. Party’s inclination toward privatization and contracting out, yesterday’s willingness to make a direct public investment was somewhat refreshing. The challenge is to extend that willingness to areas of higher priority like energy and the environment.

5 comments

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  • Good luck on your Leadership run, Erin!

    Best cheers, vic.

  • Mark Bigland-Pritchard

    “unclear why a stadium should be anywhere near the top of the priority list” – it shouldn’t be on the priority list at all. This is a matter for the Riders and their fans to sort out, not the taxpayers of Saskatchewan.

    Energy IS a priority, though. The SaskParty government (with minimal and often off-the-point criticism from the NDP) are willing to put our money into expensive options like coal with CCS. And if it were not for campaigns run by civil society groups they would be throwing more of it at the nuclear industry. And then of course there are all the well-documented government subsidies to the oil and gas industry. The problem is not that the government isn’t prepared to invest in energy, nor that it doesn’t prioritise it – it’s that they are only prepared to invest in dirty options.

    And why advocate these half-measures, Erin? We know from over a decade of international experience that by far the most efficient way to introduce renewables to the grid is by means of well-designed feed-in tariffs. (Where we could use some direct government investment, though, is in helping local community renewables cooperatives to get themselves started.)

  • I agree that fossil-fuel power is a priority for the Sask. Party and it reflects the bias toward contracting out. The private Northland natural-gas plant is the obvious example, but even the Boundary Dam CCS project is being pitched as a public-private partnership.

    I strongly support feed-in tariffs and government start-up funding for local, small-scale renewables. However, I think that SaskPower should own and operate the large-scale generation facilities.

    SaskPower building large wind farms could and should be a major part of the shift to green energy, not a half-measure. To mobilize those public resources, we need to overturn the Sask. Party’s edict that only private operators may invest in wind power.

  • Mark Bigland-Pritchard

    Of course SaskPower, rather than some unaccountable private corporation, should maintain control over existing large power stations. (Not that SaskPower generally behaves as if it were accountable to the people, but at least there’s a chance that it could be made so.)

    But I don’t ultimately see a need for new large windfarms (by “large” I mean bigger than about 30MW capacity), nor indeed new large anything, for both technical and social reasons:
    – lots of small facilities with a good geographical spread gives a more even overall output than a few big ones.
    – spreading them out also means more local jobs, more local enterprise springing up on the back of the wind industry, more rural communities given the chance of economic stability.
    I also don’t think we’re going to get anywhere with sustainable electricity in this province until the culture changes at SaskPower from the current rigid centralist mentality to a recognition that they are public servants and their job is to empower the people (in both senses of the word).

    I would prefer to see SaskPower having, say, a 33% share in each local community-owned windfarm rather than having a rigid distinction between SaskPower and community stations. It might help them to learn to behave like they’re part of the community…

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