Power outages

During the last couple of days the electrical company here had caused numerous planned power outages.

Planned being the wrong term, maybe. The outages are intentional in that someone threw off the switch according to instructions, and planned in a similar manner since someone had to decide which switch to throw

But there were no notices in advance regarding the areas that will have the power supply broken, or the specific length in each case. According to the report the electric company didn’t bother deciding in advance themselves, just sent instructions down to regional branches throughout the day.

The most exact notice was, as heard on the radio today, a general and vague notice that the electrical company recommends that people will avoid using elevators until about 18:00. This after several incidents yesterday where people were trapped in an elevator for close to an hour.

Not that the warning helped much, a few people managed to get stuck in an elevator today as well, since the stairs are not practical for everyone.

The lack of information was very annoying. When the power is cut down it’s always annoying, naturally. But when there’s some accident or malfunction, it’s one thing. You know someone is working to fix it. And you know there wasn’t any way to provide a warning in advance. A planned/intentional outage is another thing. They disconnect parts of the grid on purpose because they can’t provide the demand. They know. So they can announce it in advance. The fact that they didn’t announce in advance, that’s just galling.

Most of the outages lasted a little less than an hour before power was restored, and cut down in another area. This is probably because the allowed limit for unannounced planned power outages is an hour, and they probably don’t want to cross it or they’ll have a lot more to explain if there will be an inquiry.

On the other hand, as I said, while the first outage on the morning may really be hard to announce in advance (assuming it’s motivated by a sudden discovery that power usage is about to outgrow the available production), this can’t possibly be the case for all the later outages when they already claim they will have them throughout the whole day. They can make a plan, and publish it. They should.

A main point, causing a lot of argument, is that at this point it’s not really clear if there really is a problem to supply the demand for electricity, or if it’s merely the power company flexing muscles. Possibly both.

The electrical company is involved in arguments with the government which are currently keeping three power stations down. The first case, and the one where it’s obvious the electric company is wrong, is an environmental issue. The electric company received more than enough time to upgrade a station to work on natural gas, and has been dawdling very aggressively. As a result the government ordered them to shut down the station until the upgrade is complete.

For two others the reports I read are unclear, but it’s either some disagreement about the administrative organization of the stations, or that they’re physically not ready to work yet. Depends on whether the people quoted are from the electric company or from the government. I’m not familiar with the issue myself beyond that, so no opinion here.

With three stations down, and power consumption raising each year, it’s possible that the company really can’t supply all the demand on very hot days, and has to shut down some clients. It’s possible.

On the other hand it’s also perfect timing for this to be a move to put pressure on the government to allow them to operate the stations their way. The station with the environmental issues has been shut down very recently, and it’s not a very major one. We had some really hot days not so many weeks ago, and they went over very smoothly and without a hitch.

The really messy part of everything, though, is all the highly biased media reports, for both sides, and the responses by some of the people.

Some reports go on and on about how the government is preventing the electric company from operating perfectly fine stations that can supply the power, never mind all the pesky issues like pollution and they way things run.

Other reports try to cast the company as a villain, blame on it anything that happened as a result of the power outage (and some things that just happened to occur at the same time), and call for investigations and lawsuits.

Many people feel very happy to charge head-on into blaming the electric company for everything. Sometimes they get a bit out of hand.

One article I read mentioned how a very old man with a pacemaker was caught in an elevator, and was rescued by the fire department after a few minutes. Which is fine as far as reporting goes, but then they bothered to mention again that luckily he didn’t need medical attention while he was stuck in an elevator.

Please, the guy was trapped for like five minutes. If he’s in a big risk of having a heart attack every five minutes, and to require immediate medical attention for that, then he should stay put in a hospital, or with an attached nurse. He should not go home and climb into an elevator. Nothing happened, and even if something did happen blaming it on the electric company would have been far-fetched.

Another story that received big headlines was about a woman, with a baby, who got trapped for 45 minutes in an elevator. So OK, that’s not fun. But again, nothing happened. They just waited in an elevator, and it was a little hot. No need to turn this into the major tragedy the paper and readers seem to.

Worse, traffic lights went out as well. They’re electrical, of course, so it’s no big surprise. And, frankly, traffic lights do go out occasionally anyway due to unplanned power breaks, or other malfunctions. But this time, the few accidents that occurred are blamed on the electric company. People want them to be sued for being responsible for the deaths.

This despite the fact that many intersections don’t have traffic lights anyway, and people usually know how to deal with this. Our traffic regulations cover driving without traffic lights. Heck, one of the drivers on the big accident ignored a stop sign. Sounds like the kind of driver who may ignore a red traffic light as well.

Sure, the traffic light was off, but that wasn’t the cause of the accident. That driver was. But people don’t seem to care, since yelling at the electric company is more fun.

One article I saw covering this went even further. They added to the same article a report about a kid who managed to slip down some ditch someplace and get killed. No relation to the electric company was mentioned at all, it just happened close to the area where one of the car accidents occurred. So, for the reporter, the physical proximity seemed like good enough a reason to mention this kid in the same article, thereby giving the distinct impression that this death can be blamed on the electric company too.

It’s a bad situation. And knowing we have those power outages makes me feel like I’m in some third-world country instead of the first-world country we usually pretend to be. If it will turn out that there wasn’t a good technical reason for the outages, and they were indeed mainly motivated by the desire to play power games (if you’d pardon the pun), I’ll also wholeheartedly support some major house-cleaning and head-chopping in the electric company.

But from here to blaming everything wrong in the world on them, well, the distance is very large…

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