Chances are vanishingly small that Alberta’s United Conservative Party Government somehow managed to intentionally cause last night’s cold-weather electricity crunch that led to every Albertan with a smartphone receiving an emergency alert pleading with them “to immediately limit their electricity use to essential needs only.”
The Alberta Electric System Operator, the non-profit created by government regulation to oversee the province’s electrical system, issued the urgent call yesterday afternoon and it was relayed via the province’s emergency alerts system.
“Reducing peak electricity demand through province-wide conservation will minimize the high potential for rotating outages this evening,” AESO’s news release said.
“Immediate power conservation could make a significant difference in reducing overall system demand, currently at approximately 12,000 MW,” the AESO release continued. “To put these numbers into perspective, tonight the City of Calgary will be drawing approximately 1,650 MW of electricity, and, if rotating outages are implemented, will need to reduce power by approximately 50 MW.
“Rotating outages mean that some power will be temporarily out in different parts of the province until sufficient generation returns to the grid or power demand declines enough that the AESO can rebalance supply and demand,” the release warned, noting that it would be up to municipalities to decide who gets cut off.
Now, I’m not saying that there aren’t a few people in the UCP Government malicious enough to come up with a scheme that cynical, but one strongly doubts they have the competence to manage such a feat in the short time span while a polar vortex sends Western Canadian temperatures plummeting to near Martian levels.*
Still, it’s a commentary on the credibility of the claims and explanations regularly offered up by Premier Danielle Smith and the UCP that large numbers of Albertans apparently concluded yesterday evening this was a real possibility worthy of being asserted on social media.
Seriously, I have been paying attention to politics since my teens nearly 60 years ago and I have never seen or heard of a government in a Canadian jurisdiction whose pronouncements are so lacking in credibility. Mind you, the one in the Prairie province to the east is giving the UCP a run for its money in that regard.
Premier Smith didn’t help by immediately inserting her ideological opposition to renewable energy into her messages about the power shortage, tweeting, “Right now, wind is generating almost no power. When renewables are unreliable, as they are now, natural gas plants must increase capacity to keep Albertans warm and safe.”
Unmentioned in the premier’s tweet was that there were outages at two gas-fired electricity generation plants, one of them for “planned maintenance.”
Many commenters seemed to be thinking the same thing: “Are we sure that the warning was not contrived to affirm her fear mongering?”
“We have had cold snaps before…no problem,” said another commenter. “The difference this year is Smith made a big stink about not having enough power.”
And why, others asked, did the lights all stay on in the half-empty office towers of downtown Calgary while private homes co-operated?
There’s plenty more of the same online.
It’s obvious, as social media commentary often notes, that Ms. Smith in particular frequently just makes stuff up and, even when her explanations are loosely tethered to facts, tends to blame Ottawa and the NDP for anything that goes wrong on in Alberta’s jurisdiction on the UCP’s watch – which is now entering its sixth calendar year, it is worth remembering.
I suppose it would be fair to call this a conspiracy theory, and proof that it is not just the UCP’s Q-adjacent base that is vulnerable to such thinking. Still, numerous commenters couldn’t help recalling the government’s threatening freeze-in-the-dark-and-cold engagement campaign last fall and drawing the inevitable sinister conclusion.
The $8-million Alberta Government campaign had diesel trucks rolling around places like Ottawa and the Maritimes bearing statements like “No one wants to freeze in the dark” and asking folks who saw it to go to a website called TellTheFeds.ca and shout at the Trudeau Government.
Whatever happened to the Tell-the-Feds website? you ask. Well, it doesn’t appear to be there any more, with an Error 1001 message explaining, “You’ve requested a page on a website (tellthefeds.ca) that is on the Cloudfare network. Cloudflare is currently unable to resolve your requested domain (tellthefeds.ca).”
Who knows? Maybe it’ll be back with modifications, maybe it’s gone forever. Whatever.
At the time, the Globe and Mail published an opinion piece by University of Calgary environmental law professor Martin Z. Olszynski that bluntly called the campaign “grossly exaggerated if not outright false.”
“The ‘Tell the Feds’ campaign isn’t about feasibility, affordability or reliability, but rather a thinly disguised attempt to enlist ordinary Canadians in Alberta’s unyielding service to the fossil fuel industry,” Professor Olszynski concluded.
Anyway, while the temperature remains around -30, last night’s emergency seems to have passed.
AESO published a press release just before midnight thanking Albertans for doing their bit to prevent the system from having to cut anyone off. “Almost immediately after the alert was issued, the AESO saw a significant 100 MW drop in electricity demand, which amounted to a 200 MW reduction within minutes,” the news release said. “The Grid Alert was declared ended at 8:40 p.m.”
It goes without saying, though, that the Albertans most likely to have quickly gone ahead with the AESO’s request were “the wokerati,” “cultural Marxists,” and “green leftists.” I can offer no proof for this assertion, but y’all know in your hearts that I’m right.
ND bees are buzzing again!
Once again, there’s an audible buzz in NDP circles that something big is about to happen in the Opposition Caucus.
Once stung, twice shy, and all that, so I won’t try to pinpoint a date, or speculate on what it might be, but there’s definitely the feeling that something is up.
On Jan. 10, Calgary-Mountain View MLA and Opposition Energy Critic Kathleen Ganley has even posted a soft launch of … something.
Whatever it was, we now know that Ms. Ganley knows who she is, why she’s here, and that her colleagues stand with her.
But why is the former Justice Minister in Rachel Notley’s NDP cabinet telling us all about this just now?
For the moment, I’ll just leave it to your imaginations.
*I’m not kidding. The temperature on my back porch this morning was supposedly seven degrees Celsius colder than the day’s high on the surface of Mars.