Mahone Bay Centre Cafe Canada 20120427
At a Mahone Bay Centre Cafe Canada 20120427 event, Craig Hubley explained Lunenburg Region's unique opportunity to improve its broadband and power grid capabilities by building on its three small utilities.
Video and slides. [Links to all references to be provided]
See also the summary of Riverport District talks and Lunenburg Board of Trade 20120110 talks from 2011-2012, and the shining example of Chattanooga, TN which has put Tennessee in the forefront of gigabit networks.
Nova Scotia has near-universal rural wireless broadband service but it costs 4x as much for the same bandwidth as wired service. In the 1920s, rural North Americans paid 4x as much as towns for electricity, and we were far behind Germany and France in electricity. Universal fairly priced service was only achieved in the US by lending federal money (as part of the "New Deal") to public power districts (PPD)s and rural electric co-operatives to roll out universal service. In the 2000s, advanced metering and demand response to cut electricity waste and enable renewables was rolled out far faster and with less backlash by these 2000+ towns and 900+ rural co-ops. People living in those were about three times as likely to have advanced metering and demand response as elsewhere in the US. Nowhere has a small utility encountered the so-called "smart meter backlash" large utilities have.
The right to keep and form these small local utilities is vitally important to local economies, and is jealously defended. A botched "smart grid" rollout in Boulder, Colorado, caused the town to vote to secede from XCel Energy. PG&E in California lost a referendum on the right of towns to secede. In Tennesee, where electric utility EPB in Chattanooga rolled out gigabit Internet and all modern power grid services to everyone in six counties (600 square miles), legislators are trying to expand its service area, as lobbyists for AT&T and Comcast try to contain it and continue to offer inferior services to people right next door.
With both broadband and smart grid services to deploy, and a coastal economy suffering from the recession, the five public power districts in Nova Scotia (Antigonish, Canso, Berwick, Mahone Bay, Lunenburg) and the one rural electric co-op (Riverport), and any new ones that form in future, play a vital role in keeping Nova Scotia competitive and ensuring that the transition to variable electricity pricing, electric vehicles and smart homes respects privacy, collects road taxes fairly, and does not fall as a burden on the poorest.
Chattanooga TN's successful model, and other more incremental models of broadband rollout, show that communications revenue and electric grid efficiencies can pay for the new technology and attract new investment immediately, placing no burden on the poor. All that is required is courage and a minimum of federal, provincial and regional support.
With three of the six members of the Municipal Electric Utilities of Nova Scotia clustered closely together on the South Shore, and one of them (Riverport) in desperate need of an edge to rebuild the centre of its historic town, and power prices and supply choices on everyone's mind, it's time to explore the alternatives.
Frequently asked questions
- How can Nova Scotia towns take control of their destinies and upgrade their own grids to increase real estate values, lower tax rates, dull the impact of variable electricity pricing on the poor, and attract investment and residents with the ultimate teleworker-friendly town?
- What does a good unified district utility business plan look like? What services should be included, and which not?
- What federal and provincial policies, attitudes and programs should change to enable this?
- What happens if we don't do it?