Keeping the lights on

Like most Islanders, we lost power for an extended time following the storm last week. And like most Islanders we were caught by surprise and were unprepared for just how damaging the seemingly mild storm was. Could we have been better prepared? And can we expect more of this during the next few months? Speaking personally, I wish I’d filled up the bath tub with water, and as always I lament the fact that we don’t have a generator …. but never quite enough to go out and invest in one. Collectively, we could invest in a similar sort of insurance against the next devastating storm which will inevitably come, if not this winter, then some winter in the near future.

Firstly, I join all Islanders in saluting the remarkable job that the Maritime Electric workers always do to restore power to our communities, typically in difficult conditions. Thank you.

But I’d like to suggest that a more progressive-thinking administration at Maritime Electric would be leading the charge towards a more dispersed, decentralized and resilient generating network. Any distribution system, whether it be for power, resources, or information is made vulnerable when it is highly centralized. And conversely, systems that are diversified and decentralized are more robust and able to sustain threats such as last week’s storm. Just imagine for a moment an Island where all residents produce their own power through a diffuse, integrated network of solar, wind and other carbon neutral sources. And imagine for a moment a situation where there is storage capacity in individual homes and communities to allow Islanders to be largely able to sail through a weather event such as the one we had last week. Impossible? Impractical? Not at all. Technological advances are coming in leaps and bounds in the renewable energy field, particularly in storage. Many other countries have invested in small-scale renewable installations, and are reaping the benefits, both environmentally and economically. There is no better time for us to wean ourselves off fossil fuel-based power generation, and to start investing in a modern, clean and robust energy system here on PEI. And signs are that our provincial government is finally ready to get behind such a vision.

Personally, my vision of our energy future is of entirely renewable generation which is diverse, decentralized and carbon neutral. My vision also includes a picture of Maritime Electric line workers sitting, like the famous ad for the Maytag repair guy, head in hands with nothing to do as our Island remains empowered during a blistering winter blizzard.