Part One: Just a few spaces left! Register online for AIMS/ECANS electricity conference, “Plugging in the International Northeast” Keynote Speaker – Former FERC Chairman Curt Hebert

Two years ago, AIMS and ECANS brought the very best ideas about competition, deregulation and market opening in the electricity field to Atlantic Canada at our “Plugging in Atlantic Canada” conference. Now, with a recent major power outage in central North America, looming power generation shortages in the Maritimes, painful lessons to be learned from California and Ontario, and a growing awareness of the importance of regional co-operation across the Canada-US border, AIMS and ECANS are back with an update on how power markets are evolving and what it means.

Some of the biggest names in electricity policy will be speaking at “Plugging in the International Northeast”. Headlining the bill is former US Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Chairman, Curt Hebert, as well as Ken Malloy, President of the Center for the Advancement of Energy Markets, George Spencer of Restructuring Today, Stewart MacPherson, Acting President, NB Power, Karl Pfirrmann, President, Midwest Region, PJM, Jim Connors, Vice-President, Regulatory Affairs, Emera, Mark Karl, Manager of Market Design, New England ISO, and Rod Taylor, Former Executive Vice President, Hydro One. In addition, well-known electricity consultant Gordon Weil will be presenting his new AIMS paper on a bi-national electricity market in Atlantica.

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Part Two: New AIMS Paper: Proposed Restructuring of New Brunswick Power Leaves Huge Problems Unresolved

The Atlantic Institute for Market Studies (AIMS) this week released, “Power Trip: Stumbling toward a policy for NB Power”. It not only provides an in-depth analysis and explanation of NB Power’s poor financial performance, but also of the government’s response to the utility’s crisis – a proposed restructuring of the company and of the electricity market. “Power Trip” also addresses and debunks the conventional wisdom regarding the superiority of Crown owned utilities over those privately owned. According to the paper’s author, Dr. Thomas L. Tucker, AIMS Fellow Natural Resource Policy, there are five top myths about fixing NB Power that must be dispelled if sensible policy is to prevail.

Those myths are:

Splitting one Crown Corporation into five will solve the problem of high operating costs.
Moving debt to province’s books will improve NB Power’s performance
Taxpayers will not be on the hook for NB Power’s debt.
Borrowing more money can solve the problem of high debt.
All New Brunswickers will benefit from limiting competition in the wholesale market.
Dr. Tucker says the proposed restructuring of NB Power will do nothing to address the problems of high operating costs and high debts.

The author recommends a completely alternative approach that deals with the realities facing New Brunswick Power and the electricity industry in the province.

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Part Three: AIMS responds to critics of NB Power paper

a) Media release: Reaction by NB Power and the New Brunswick government to AIMS latest paper “Power Trip: Stumbling toward a policy for NB Power” is defensive and disappointing. “The response from the government upon release of the paper did not deal substantively with the issues facing New Brunswickers – namely expanding debt, declining value of existing generating assets, high operating costs and limited competition in the retail marketplace.” AIMS president Brian Lee Crowley said in a media release on Wednesday, 5 November 2003. He added, “ The only reaction of the power establishment in the province is to hide its head in the sand. New Brunswickers deserve to have these vital matters demystified so that they can decide if they wish to pursue the risky policies being promoted by the utility and the government. ‘Just trust us’ is no policy at all.”

b) Newspaper op-ed: Getting the politics out of power

Why do politicians so consistently get electricity policy wrong? Economic truth is often politically unpopular, and politicians have been only too willing to pander to voters’ desire for artificially cheap electricity and unjustified massive construction projects today by storing up far worse electricity prices and massive debt for tomorrow. New Brunswick is the latest province to have reached a crisis because there are no more quick fixes. The noose is tightening, but the provincial government and New Brunswick Power seem determined to pretend that the rope is nothing but the latest fashion in neckties.

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Part Four: Mike Harris outlines sweeping economic vision

In a forceful speech delivered to an AIMS luncheon October 22nd, former Ontario premier Mike Harris outlined his vision of economic renewal in Canada.

Citing a variety of AIMS works dealing with regional development issues, Mr. Harris questioned the ongoing federal preference of providing corporate subsidies and argued in favour of measures to address global competitiveness through increased productivity and encouraged market-based solutions to fix public policy challenges. The speech was widely reported due to speculation surrounding a possible Harris candidacy for leadership of the proposed new “Conservative Party”.

AIMS is thankful for the generous sponsorship of this event by Office Interiors Group
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Part Five: Newfoundland Needs More than a Switch

Now that Newfoundland has elected a new government, questions will now be asked about policy direction under PC Leader Danny Williams. AIMS Fellow Peter Fenwick, who writes for AIMS on Newfoundland policy issues, has turned his mind to what a Williams government’s priorities will be, given the leader’s policy positions and the evolution of the election campaign. In this item originally published in the October 21st National Post, Fenwick says beyond a modest commitment to eliminate civil servant positions and balance the budget, the PC agenda appears to be business as usual.

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