Friday, June 10, 2005

Blackouts and Brownshirts

Government regulation is not an alternative means of protecting the consumer. It does not build quality into goods, or accuracy into information. Its sole "contribution" is to substitute force and fear for incentive as the "protector" of the consumer. The euphemisms of government press releases to the contrary notwithstanding, the basis of regulation is armed force. At the bottom of the endless pile of paper work which characterizes all regulation lies a gun.

Alan Greenspan - "The Assault on Integrity"
Last night, while at work, I had the opportunity to speak to a younger employee who is still attending high school. She informed me that their class was visited by a representative of an organization promoting energy conservation (she could not remember the name of the organization he was representing, although she did say he was connected with the people we can thank for those annoying WHIMIS tests that are to serve as a substitute for common sense - so I'm figuring that means the ESAO - Education Safety Association of Ontario). This individual also informed the unfortunate vassals that the people of Ontario can expect planned blackouts and brownouts this summer.

I've been doing a bit of research, but it's hot enough to fry an egg on my computer in this apartment and I only have a fan blowing hot air to cool me down, so I'm lazy. I suppose I'll be better equipped to deal with the upcoming shortages than my neighbours with air conditioning. Make sure you save all work in process frequently Ontarians.
Power Emergencies are issued when large-scale outages or rotating blackouts are required to protect the system as a whole. Under these emergency conditions, advance warning of specific outages may not be possible. The IESO will, however, aim to allocate the rotating outages equitably across the province in order to minimize the impact on individuals to the extent possible.

Weather conditions affect the demand for electricity considerably, which is why Public Appeals are often issued during extreme cold spells and heat waves. For example, each degree above 16°C creates an additional 380 MW of demand. And that's not counting the impact of humidity, which can also have a significant impact on demand.
Who is the IESO? The privatization that never happened:
The IESO was established in April 1999 as the Independent Electricity Market Operator (IMO) under the provincial government of premier Mike Harris in preparation for deregulation of the province's electrical supply and transmission system. As part of government plans to privatize the assets of Ontario Hydro, the utility was split into 5 separate Crown corporations with the IMO responsible for directing the flow of electricity across the high-voltage, province-wide network owned by Hydro One and other transmission companies. It was also given the responsibility of managing and operating the competitive wholesale electricity market and working with neighbouring jurisdictions to manage an integrated North American electricity network.

The IMO was renamed to the IESO in January 2005 as a result of the passage of Bill 100, which redefined the direction of deregulation and also lead to the creation of the Ontario Power Authority.

The IESO is an independent, not-for-profit entity. It is governed by a board whose directors are appointed by the government of Ontario, its fees and licences are set by the Ontario Energy Board and, most importantly, it operates independently of all participants in the electricity market.
There is also an energy crisis in Communist China:
Beginning in 2000, the power shortages first spread throughout 12 eastern and southern provinces. Over two consecutive years, provincial power grids had to ration their limited generating capacity, resulting in blackouts during times when power demand from heating and cooling systems peaked. By 2003, frequent blackouts had spread to an additional 11 provinces and by the end of 2004 power shortages reached a total of 27 of China's 31 provinces, with 175, 000 shortages reported nationwide.

In response, large cities have been asked to ration their electricity consumption while power grids have imposed strict cut-off schemes throughout most of China.

[..] Despite growth in installed capacity generation, the country continues to face power shortages and last winter for the first time imposed restrictions on company energy usage. Tremendous daily pressure being placed on China's power grid, which results in regular electricity cut-offs to many firms, has meant that by the end of 2004 over 10,000 manufacturing units have had to impose strict power rationing schemes and rearrange their production schedules around periods of lower power demand by including more graveyard and weekend shifts.

[..] By the end of the 1990s, the government began reforming its power system, dividing the State Power Corporation, the former monopoly provider, into 11 smaller companies, including two major power grid operations. But the new structure has limitations and has failed to adequately cope with increasing electricity demand.
Well, the solution lies with the perpetrator of the crisis don't you know:
"I am not worried about electricity supply," says Jiang Kejun. "What we need is strong help from the government to accelerate reforms promoting energy efficiency and competition."
Back in Ontario, we find Hydro One talking out of both sides of its mouth on the issue of the striking engineers:
There is, of course, a large difference of opinion regarding the potential effect of the strike. The striking union contends that blackouts will become the norm and we'd better get used to living with the lights and air-conditioning off.

Hydro One management, however, is singing a different tune. They say the engineers aren't responsible for the day-to-day operation of the power grid.

"It shouldn't have any operational impact on the company, and our customers should see little to no impact," said Hydro One spokesperson Peter Gregg.

[..] If the power stays on and people are able to enjoy the summer while still enjoying the air-conditioned comfort of their homes and offices, the union will have a tough time convincing anyone of their irreplaceability.

However, should brownouts and blackouts become commonplace, it won't take long for public pressure to overwhelm Hydro management and force them to capitulate to union demands.
Holy hypocrites:
Mr. Justice Colin Campbell ruled tonight that Hydro One's presentation of its case didn't meet the standard required for the injunction sought. They had, he said, demonstrated "no real operational risk."

"The Hydro One 'contingency plan,' as endorsed by the McGuinty
government, is a shambles," said Society spokesperson Brian Robinson. "The same company that was telling the public everything was okay was in court today saying if our peaceful, polite picket lines were allowed to continue, the electricity system, like 'Humpty Dumpty,' might fall apart."
I immediately recall the following passage from the last chapter of "Atlas Shrugged":
The plane was above the peaks of the skyscrapers when suddenly, with the abruptness of a shudder, as if the ground had parted to engulf it, the city disappeared from the face of the earth. It took them a moment to realize that the panic had reached the power station - and that the lights of New York had gone out.


Mike said...

I tried to get a veggie dog and Caesar salad from Prince Albert's Diner at lunch today. Dark and powerless. Same at Fellini Koolini's. The area around Albert and Richmond had no power. I think something local blew, since Dufferin was powered.


Justzumgai said...

Unfortunately, the fig leaf of privatization being waved in front of the government electrical regime in Ontario will provide a ready excuse for when those brownouts and blackouts happen - "Some greedy capitalist cut corners and endangered the safety and vital interests of Ontarians!"

As if a profit-motivated entrepreneur would be try to lose all his customers on the busiest day of the year. Only governments profit from failures.

Pietr said...

We've had private electricity in the UK for fifteen years.
Prices have fallen consistently in real terms,and reliability is unaffected.
I pay £20($40Cn)a month for my power.