During the debate over NB Power, a number of people that disagreed with me used the argument that the large industrial users were the problem and if they could be purged, it would be far better for the system. One of the guys I debated with argued that the forest products mills should pay far more for electricity – even if it put them out of business.
The problem I made then – admittedly to very little traction – and I’ll make now is that if you take the large users off the system, you then need to spread that $4.5 billion in debt (or whatever it is these days we don’t know) over a far smaller base of MW usage. The TJ has a good editorial today about what will happen if PEI drops off as a large NB Power customer.
Some of the people that think about these things are telling me that the best thing is for the large industrial users to be allowed to leave NB Power and buy power directly from Hydro-Quebec or Nalcor or generate their own. I think this idea should be pursued but again we have to consider this issue of stranded debt. If you end up with just residential customers and small businesses as NB Power customers, amortizing that debt over the small number gets a whole lot harder.
For those that just scoffed at the debt issue (usually based on an argument about the rebuild value of the assets which is totally irrelevant – what is relevant is how that old, stranded debt gets paid off), the chickens are coming home to roost.