Greek philosopher Heraclitus gets credit for first saying the only constant in the world is change.
Can you imagine what the ‘Dark Philosopher’ from 500BC would make of our times where perpetual change has accelerated to dizzying speeds?
In the past decade alone, technological advances have changed basic assumptions about what is a viable business. Ask a taxi company owner if their business is less valuable now. Ask a traditional mattress retailer if online disruptors like Casper or Endy have eaten into their bottom line.
Already, memories of physically going to a video rental store seem sepia-toned, as if all those hours browsing in Blockbuster happened to someone else in a long distant past.
It’s those same forces of change that are about to alter how we generate and consume power.
Except this time it won’t be taxi companies or department stores feeling the pain, but instead, it will be the owners of massive power plants.
And that is us.
What is on the horizon are developments in energy storage, allowing small micro generators to capture and keep green energy for use when needed. It’s conceivable in the coming years that an Uber-style company could help underwrite capital costs of solar panels and energy storage for consumers, who, in return, could remove themselves from the grid and stop paying the local utility.
That’s one less ratepayer (a fancy way of separating those who pay for electricity from the general tax base) to share the burden of the cost of transmission lines, power plants and nuclear refurbishment.
To compound the problem in Ontario, the recently passed Fair Hydro Plan will pass on a mountain of accumulated debt in a decade’s time, just around the time technological change is expected to fundamentally alter things.
The conundrum for a future Ontario government will be how to pay the bill if a significant number of people leave the grid. That won’t be helped by the high electricity prices the current government is passing along.
The recently released Long-Term Energy Plan addresses these issues but has no real answers for our future leaders.
“While we know that our electricity system will continue the trend towards smaller, more distributed energy resources, for the foreseeable future it remains impractical to fully disconnect from the grid,” said Colin Nekolaichuk from the Ministry of Energy.
The government says the Fair Hydro Plan has variables programmed in it to allow for changes in energy consumption and prices, but the debt will still remain and getting consumers to pay it will be tough if there are other better cheaper options.
Which means it could eventually be future taxpayers paying for the hydro we’re using now.
A dark prediction perhaps, but one Heraclitus would likely recognize.