“Power to the people!”

old manthe old man in the hat


There is an old saying, fish and visitors stink after three days. Unfortunately after our recent visit from tropical storm Arthur, the stink seem to be hanging on.

As I write this article 45000 New Brunswickers are still without power, 5 days after the storm. The media has described this as the “largest blackout in the history of New Brunswick”.

NB Power, as per usual, is taking all the blame. I am sure that within any and every organization, decisions are made that will later prove to a less than ideal choice. Much criticism is aimed at the “tree trimming” or lack thereof.

This is a bit of a “red herring” (pardon the fish thing again!). To be totally fair to NB Power, New Brunswick has a lot of trees, especially in residential areas. Let’s be truthful. If NB Power trimmed all trees back 50 feet from there power line, everywhere, we would take the chairperson of NB Power up to Mataquac and drop him/her into the deep end.

We like our trees. What makes Fredericton so picturesque? In my opinion it is the beautiful foliage (with the power line running through!).

So, what is to be done?

Clearly, in the near term, weather is going to be an ongoing issue. We are getting more storms, more often that are more serious. Whether you attribute this to climate change or bad luck, it really does not matter when your freezer full of food is slowly melting out under the door.

Since NB Power essentially has a monopoly on power distribution in the province, perhaps there should be requirements that NB Power be responsible for homeowners to have a reliable source of backup power, at an affordable cost.

Perhaps, in some areas, that would include wind power or solar power, on site, at individual homes or access to fuel and generators at new “NB Power Centres”, the function of which would be to provide emergency power services at a modest cost to their “monopoly” customers. Monopolists have responsibilities that go beyond other businesses that operate in a normal, competitive, marketplace, and while there would be a cost involved it surely can not be more that the cost of lost productivity and commerce when businesses are closed for 5 or more days and the employees are not paid!

It is time like these when we really appreciate our dependence of electricity. Or not. Perhaps this is a (another) wakeup call.


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