Auckland’s banana republic electricity grid

From the New Zealand Herald January 26, 2010:

At the peak of the power cut, more than 50,000 homes in the city were without power and traffic ground to a halt, rail services were delayed and some businesses were forced to close.

And

Aucklanders had no disruption to hot water this morning after lines company Vector warned of possible hot water cuts.

Oh, the irony. This Friday will see the deadline for companies wanting a slice of the action in New Zealand proposed government subsidised ultrafast broadband network project. Taxpayers will be stumping up NZ$1.5 to build a fibre network.

Ironic because Vector is one of the companies expected to bid for this 21st century infrastructure project. And yet yesterday, Auckland, the nation’s largest city and commercial powerhouse was dark after the third major power outage in the last five years.

The lights and power were off from around 4pm to 8pm. Thankfully it is summer, so the consequences aren’t as drastic as in earlier outages. There’s daylight until 8:30 pm, heating isn’t necessary, schools are closed and many workers are still on holiday.

But nevertheless, there was traffic chaos and companies had to send staff home – yet another unproductive day thanks to a third world infrastructure. Many believe the problems stem from earlier industry ‘reforms’ and deregulation.

And here’s the biggest irony of them all. New Zealand’s government wants lines companies and others to help build a world-class internet that should already be in place. The only reason it isn’t is because of historic regulatory failure in the telecommunications industry. But the likely winners of contracts to build the next generation internet are companies that wax fat and lazy as a result of regulatory failure in the electricity industry.

You may be interested to read my earlier post about the urgent need to fix Auckland’s power problems.

2 thoughts on “Auckland’s banana republic electricity grid

  1. Is Auckland the biggest casualty of the deregulated electricity industry?

    In the days of the old Electricity Department they invested in infrastructure when it was needed because they didn’t have a dividend imperative. They could plonk pylons on farms with the backing of the Public Works Act.

    Now every metre of proposed new infrastructure is subject to endless consultation and negotiation with landowners, who are well aware of their rights under the Resource Management Act. The result is years of delay, with rural landowners and urban Aucklanders lined up on opposite sides of the debate.

    Like

  2. It’s clear the pendulum swung too far back the other way on this issue.

    I’m sympathetic to farmers not wanting large companies or government departments to walk all over them, but it should be possible to get the balance right between the two sets of needs.

    Like

Comments are closed.