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The spatial behaviour of Alberta's electricity industry, 1888-1965 : the impact of economies of scale Mullins, Gary Edward

Abstract

This study describes the spatial evolution of the electricity industry in Alberta over the period 1885-1965 in terms of production facilities, transportation linkages and market nodes and seeks to identify the forces which brought about the observed patterns. Three distinct patterns of spatial organization are identified: (l) a dispersed pattern of isolated generating stations serving proximate consumers through distribution lines only, (2) a pattern of a large generating station or generating complex serving numerous communities through an incomplete network of transmission lines, and (3) a pattern of numerous generating stations serving a regional or provincial market through an electricity grid. The major characteristics which differentiated one spatial pattern from another, and which initiated these changes in spatial organization, is shown to be the increasing use of large and/or special purpose generating units and the linking of these facilities to markets by transmission lines. It is argued that the significantly reduced unit costs of large generating facilities was the primary force bringing about the evolution of the industry from one spatial pattern to another and that transmission facilities are the spatial linkages which permit the expansion of an electricity system by the inclusion of additional market nodes. As these represent additional costs, they also establish limits to the areal expansion of an electricity system at each stage of development.

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