Perspectives: Hydro Doesn’t Settle for “Good Enough”

Those of you who are parents can sympathize with what I’m about to say. (For those of you who are not, I apologize for going off on this tangent.)

I hate the trend of giving an award to everyone who participates in an activity.

I have two daughters, ages 12 and 9. My youngest asked to enter a beauty pageant. I found one I felt would give her a good experience and not cost an arm and a leg (it seems like paying someone to tell her she is pretty). Her older sister thought she might also give it a go, so it became a family affair. (Although my husband mostly served in a supporting role as photographer and cheerleader.)

If you haven’t filled out beauty pageant entry forms, it’s a bit like deciding how deep you want to get into a Ponzi scheme. Or buying a Powerball ticket and trying to determine whether to spring for the multiplier. There is the basic entry fee. There are entry fees for various categories (beauty, casual wear, theme wear). There are fees for other competitions, like “face,” photogenic and personality. And there are entry fees for different “levels” of participation. If you just pay the basic fee(s), your child has no chance of winning the “big title.”

If this “pay to play” approach isn’t bad enough, the pageant we participated in has a policy that “every child is a winner.” So if your parent pays a fee, you get an award at the end of the day. This results in ludicrous titles like: “Beauty Runner-Up Ages 9-12.” The end result was that both of my daughters won a decent enough title to make them happy, and every child there went home a “winner.”

Seems like a good experience, right? Maybe so, maybe not. Both of my children put quite a bit of effort and thought into preparing for this event, from choosing what to wear to practicing their walks and smiles to spending time in the hair and makeup chair. There was a level of effort there that goes unrecognized if they could have gotten the same results (a trophy, crown and sash) for just showing up.

What does all this have to do with hydropower?

I am proud to say that I have consistently seen, over 11 years of reporting on the hydroelectric power industry, that owners and operator of hydro projects don’t settle for “good enough.” They put in above- average effort and aim for above-average results.

The content in this issue of the magazine illustrates that readily. Take for example our cover story, on the extensive work BC Hydro is doing to replace the switchgear at its 1,805-MW Mica hydroelectric station (see page 8). When utility personnel determined the old gas-insulated switchgear had reached the end of its operating life, an extensive program was undertaken to install updated equipment that reduced environmental and reliability risks and made its use and maintenance safer for equipment operators and maintenance personnel.

Another example of going above and beyond is the article on page 24, which tells how Tacoma Power found a creative — and never before seen in the U.S. — way to improve fish passage at Little Falls. And a third is the Hydro Hall of Fame inductee introduced on page 30, which has been generating reliable, clean, affordable electricity for more than 100 years!

I could go on and on, but you get the idea. This industry doesn’t settle for good enough, and the benefits are obvious in the long contribution hydropower has made to electricity generation in North America and will continue to make for decades to come. Congratulations, and keep up the good work.

Elizabeth Ingram
Managing Editor

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