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LETTER: Summerland should not be ‘player’ in utility game

Council has been considering solar project for community

Dear Editor:

Summerland council appears divided on the solar issue.

Thank goodness Coun. Richard Barkwill is shining a light on this project. Many councillors seem more concerned about how the details became public than they are with closed-door decision-making.

I watched the June 8 afternoon council meeting on YouTube and found the debate refreshing.

I agreed with much of Coun. Doug Holmes’s comments noting that utility business is a rapidly changing landscape and that microgrids with consumers generating power is the future.

READ ALSO: LETTER: Summerland solar project should be located elsewhere

READ ALSO: LETTER: Summerland solar project should be reconsidered

I also agree that what we are doing today will bear little resemblance to what the future will bring. What I found incredibly naïve was his comment that we “should become a player and get in the game” with respect to utility business.

Any time government tries to get into business it is almost always an expensive failure.

That is because governments are not businesses and are motivated by completely different values.

To think that Summerland can be a “player” in the utility game is almost laughable.

Utility companies have hundreds of employees and are laser focused on their business. Municipalities on the other hand have many competing priorities.

Our electrical department can barely keep up with current applications and general maintenance.

One thing for sure is that we will always need a grid to move power from areas of low demand to areas of high demand. Having a fully functioning grid is much more valuable moving forward than a solar farm.

After listening to hours of debate it is clear to me that this is a project that got momentum from staff and was quickly pushed through council without much thought or debate.

We are now so far down the road it will be difficult to wind it back, and whether the project makes sense or not is almost irrelevant. I do know that there are much higher priorities that could use a million taxpayer dollars. One of which is some investment in our existing grid rather than adding $6 million of new infrastructure to maintain.

Thinking that Summerland should “get in the game” and “become a player” in the utility business on the taxpayer’s dime is truly frightening.

And if council continues to ignore the numbers and is bent on constructing a solar farm in Summerland at least they could move it off the most valuable development site we own.

Ian McIntosh

Summerland

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