David Alward Pre-Election Letter
Dear Mr. Alward,
Premier Graham has called on you several times, most recently in the press, to outline a plan by which NB Power can be relieved of its long term debt burden. Of course this will be a factor in this fall's provincial election, so I am sure you wish to present the voters with the best plan possible.
Personally I believe that the following revenue avenues should be explored:
1. Partnering with third party energy efficiency, security, communications, medical and safety monitoring services to access NB homes via the extensive secure communications network NB Power has deployed and should be upgrading.
Commercial router chipsets (notably the Atheros AR7400 and Gigle GGL541) now support IEEE P1901-based powerline networking and soon the ITU G.hn standard. Combining these with IEEE 802.21 call handover and 802.11u random user access makes it possible for NB Power to offer a near ideal platform to mobile phone companies that wish to exploit the IEEE technologies and leapfrog competitors.
At present, NB entrepreneurs are literally forced to pursue business in other jurisdictions because they cannot penetrate the monopoly arrangements now in place at home. Being first to lay out clear rules and tariffs for an IEEE 1901, 802.21, 802.11n and 802.11u based network, and integrating these rules with standards for "smart meters" and use of G.hn/P1901 networking in the home on AC power lines, would put NB in a clear leadership situation in North America. Rather than our innovators leaving, we would be attracting new innovators here.
For instance, NB could be the first place in the world to guarantee that mobile phone users could reliably use 802.11u to make emergency calls anywhere there is coverage, rely on 802.21 to shift expensive cell network calls to any available Wi-Fi network, control P1901-compliant home entertainment devices using the phone as a remote, monitor or control premises securely/reliably by phone, and ensure that a lost phone was reliably found and returned to its owner by anyone who finds it.
2. Asserting government control and public ownership of fibre optic backhaul paid for with public money, and working out a new province-wide arrangement by which those who paid for capital assets (including rural taxpayers) have say in how they are used. NB Power for instance should be free to partner with a communications company that wishes to serve rural subscribers with powerline networking technologies, without concern for how this affects Aliant interests.
Certainly part of this new arrangement should be fees received from Aliant and other service providers for the use they make of public rights of way or poles or conduits. As things stand, private communications monopolies clearly gain immensely from the public power monopoly and also from direct grants/subsidies.
Jurisdictions like Switzerland have required monopolies to run several fibre optic cables to every home in order to be relieved of onerous regulations, and the telco monopoly complied. Rather than listen to "connected" executives who wish the status quo to remain, NB should be following the Swiss example, telling its incumbent communications providers to fire incompetents and compete for real, or else face expensive regulation requiring true wired broadband to every house.
Many NB households pay thousands of dollars in communication and cell phone bills most of which goes out of province. If even a small percentage of this were to be received by the power company which maintains the most secure infrastructure for communications using public rights of way, it would solve the debt situation. Most people in NB would be happy to pay $100/month for truly flat rate TV, phone, cell, fast Internet and efficiency services that reduced their power bills by half and kept their families safe from faults and fires. Many pay more than that now.
3. Implementing time-of-use pricing simultaneously with an extensive province- wide appliance upgrade program to ensure that every ratepayer has a chance to radically reduce their energy use *before* they are hit with time-of-use bills.
In my opinion the primary motive for the proposed sale of NB Power was not debt, but to avoid the political fallout other politicians have experienced (for instance in California) when time-of-use pricing and smart metering was introduced. Because electric car charging and ground-source-heating are both impractical to deploy on a large scale without time-of-use pricing, it's not possible to avoid it in the long run. Pretending that we can waste expensive power all day and then waste more free power by shunting it into the ground all night has become an obvious fantasy and the NB public must wake up sooner or later to the realities of how the power grid works.
Once they understand how expensive it is to guarantee peak use, and are paying for their peak use, they will also understand why NB Power can no longer absorb the cost of that use. Every person that finds ways to cut peak use will then support a path that rewards them for doing so, and punishes those who are actually causing the debt.
4. Co-marketing efficient appliances, including DC appliances, power reservoirs and other mechanisms to cut peak use, to NB businesses and consumers. NB Power's nearly complete list of building owners must be of immense value to market any such product or service. Especially as smart meters will soon make their power use patterns very transparent.
5. Partnering with First Nations to upgrade their communities to the very highest standards of functionality first. In doing so NB Power can resolve its contentious dam-ownership situation and update its agreements with First Nations so as to make them examples of stewardship, efficiency and innovation. Since First Nations youth also need the employment opportunities associated with the new sustainable trades or technologies, the province can simultaneously relieve itself of some social service and education costs associated with off-reserve or non-status youth in its towns.
First Nations participation would also qualify many projects for federal funding and preferential access to contracts, helping ensure provincial investments pay off in business and employment taxes received domestically for NB natives working abroad.
6. Consulting with neighbouring power companies in Quebec, PEI, NS, NL and Maine to help them adapt to the technologies and tariff structure of the new power universe Mr. Obama's reforms have initiated (the NIST "smart grid" standards), and which the wireless (802.11 and 802.21) and powerline (P1901, G.hn) data standards bring about.
7. Consulting with communications companies anywhere in the world to help them adjust to the new world of open competition relying on power companies' rights of way, poles and wires, and robust secure ubiquitous networks, based on NIST smart grid standards.
I must point out that NB was very successful in exploiting the shift to fibre optic technologies and distributed call centres decades ago, and could exploit its central position in the Atlantic provinces and its difficult weather conditions once again to develop strategies that would be widely emulated throughout the US and Canadian Northeast. Which in turn would make NB once again attractive for innovative people.
Think about it, Sincerely, We, New Brunswickers learning to be useful trolls.