Monday, 9 June 2008

Wait for the blackout

The Herald's cartoonist accurately captures the state of NZ's feeble electricity supply system [hat tip Whale Oil]:


And whatever current Labour Minister David Parker says (or former Labour minister David Caygill insists on), it's not true that NZ's electricity supply system isn't a shambles.  Even as Caygill, the head of the Electricity Commission, insists we aren't in crisis, he  concedes "switch-offs by lines companies may be necessary" this winter.  And even while he makes this concession, David Parker insists that "anti-blackout measures" being discussed by cabinet will make blackouts unnecessary.

These measure include such things as "buy-back being negotiated with major industrial users" -- which means cutting power to producers.  In other words, a black-out for those who produce the wealth.

It's clearly not just the electricity supply system that's in a shambles.

The only solution this government has to a problem caused largely by government is "a voluntary power conservation drive," about which we're going to hear more today.  Frankly, that's wrong-headed.

If we really want New Zealand's seriously underpowered electricity generation system fixed, we're going to have to draw attention to its enfeebled state -- and the only way politicians are going to notice it is if their own lights go off.

This isn't a time not to rock the boat, it's a time to rock the boat good and hard.  Instead of limiting power use, what we urgently need to do is lift our power use to the limit to draw attention to how close we are to those very feeble limits. 

belch I suggest we all pay attention to International Carbon Belch Day on June 12 -- and even join in, firing up the heater, taking frequent baths, basking in the infinite glow of numerous incandescent light bulbs, shunning recycling of any kind, and taking spontaneous road trips in gas-guzzling vehicles to increase our personal carbon output -- all in the hopes of drawing widespread attention to how the policies of successive governments have brought us to this parlous state. And about that, more here.


  1. As I live in a "first world" country, according to the not-so-wise Sullen, I expect to have a warm and cosy home in winter.
    I've invested in heatpumps, I've invested in insulation and double-glazing.

    But I've also invested in a gas bottle and portable gas heater as "backup (heat) generation" should my gummints incompetance impact further on my standard of living.

  2. It's not just govt incompetance - the CEO's of these power companies have traditionally been stupid.

    Remeber the Y2K Committee? The only group in NZ who had no contingency plans whatsoever, and in fact did not even know what would happen to our power at that time were the power coys. The stations are - or were - or maybe still are -basically 'blackboxes' - they don't have a clue what may or may not happen.

    These executives should get jobs better suited to their talents, such as coal-mining: were the canary in the mine to drop dead, they'd probably just complain that they missed its singing and ask for a heartier one to be sent down.

  3. Silly Ruth, it isn't CEOs who could cause power stations to go down with Y2K bugs, but engineers ...

    I would trust the Kiwi engineer on the ground with crucial decisions like "should our whole station depend on a date being correct", rather than let the CEO handle it.

    Of course, I would trust any corporate suit with that decision before I would let a gummint committee get anywhere near it!


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