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I heard something that made me feel really good last week. It didn’t happen here in Rockford, but it still makes me want to share.
Amid all the disaster reporting following Hurricane Ian, there was one town, not 10 miles from where the storm landed, that never lost power. It was an engineered community, with solar power and a smart grid and buried power lines. I say, “well planned!” especially for a storm-susceptible area.
Years ago I was talking to a power company exec at a social function. I asked why the company never considered buried power lines in rural areas where outages are likely. “Too expensive.” He was very dismissive.
He was also not a deep economic thinker. Because if the company factored the cost of line maintenance, vegetation management, line crews, salaries, insurance, trucks, and fuel over the course of, say, a 50-year life span of a buried cable, the expenses would shift. The one-time cost of buried lines would look a lot better.
This reminds me of the columnist in the power company magazine who, month after month, extolls the virtues of clean coal over expensive renewable energy. Again, not a deep economic thinker. If the coal companies factor in the externalities: the real cost of air pollution, miners’ health and land reclamation, that coal would have to be a lot more expensive.
Economics is an applied science that we can use to make smarter decisions. Perhaps the member-owned power companies need to rethink their models. Maybe they should be less of a buyer and seller of power, but a manager and distributor of home-grown locally produced renewable energy. At least as a part of their smart grids.
Think about it, deeply. In the meantime, I will be your eye in the sky, sittin’ on the power lines.
Editor’s note: Readers can submit “Letters to Buzzy” and “Ask Buzzy” via mail to The Coosa County News; P.O. Box 99; Rockford, AL 35136; or via email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Any correspondence received will be promptly passed along to Coosa County’s favorite buzzard.