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Do the lights ever go out on Planet Key?

Written By: - Date published: 8:19 pm, April 19th, 2013 - 33 comments
Categories: assets, capitalism, energy, greens, john key, labour, privatisation, slippery - Tags: ,

John Key seems to have dropped out of sight since he had a bit of a hard time in the House this week.  But he popped up on TV3 News tonight, to make a comment about the Labour-Green NZ Power policy. He said that:

In terms of a policy it’s barking mad, and these people are taking us back to something we abandoned in the 1970s when people used to sit around candles because the lights went out.

Well I don’t know what the service is like in Key’s area of Parnell, BUT living in west Auckland throughout the 12+ years of the 21st century, I have experienced numerous power cuts. I have sat around candle light several times.  Or maybe Key is away somewhere else when they happen – Wellington or Hawaii?

I had a bit of a search online and found a few examples of recent power outages in Auckland.  there’s this report:

The city of Auckland, with a population of just over a million people, is New Zealands largest city and has its power provided by Mercury Energy, who have four 110kV cables feeding the central business district. Because of one or more of the reasons given below, all the cables have failed, leaving the central city without power since the 20th of February.

Auckland’s infamous power crises began on 20 January 1998, according to Wikipedia.  the power outages lasted for 5 weeks.

There’s quite a few reports online of localised power cuts in Auckland in recent years.  Many happen during storms.  In April 2012, a power outage in Wellington, stopped Auckland trains. A transformer fault caused a significant outage in February 2009.  Another power cut in October 2009 caused problems in medical centres, chaos for travelers and losses for many businesses.  And the top comment under the last article says this:

Living in a rural area just outside warkworth we lose power about 20 times a year, every year! It may be a couple of seconds or up to 2 days! It’s frustrating enough to reset all computers etc. New Zealand is a third world country when it comes to power distribution.

And sometimes people have to resort  to candle light because they can’t afford to pay their power bills.

Researcher Kim O’Sullivan met Howard and Kahu in the winter of 2007. The Lower Hutt couple were struggling to keep their prepay electricity meter topped up. Several times Howard turned off the power at the mains when they were down to their last few dollars. Dinner for the couple’s children was cooked on a barbecue. Kahu, who is dependent on a nebuliser, was admitted to hospital on one occasion when they ran out of electricity.

Kim O’Sullivan is a researcher with the University of Otago’s Housing and Health Research Programme, and is completing a PhD on fuel poverty. Stories like the one she tells about Howard and Kahu are becoming increasingly common as electricity prices continue their relentless rise.

Last year more than 30,000 households had their electricity cut off. Disconnections reached their peak just as the chill of winter power bills hit home. For the three months from July to September, more than 9000 homes were cut off from the grid for non-payment of bills.

Electricity Authority data show disconnections have been increasing since mid-2008, after a brief dip following the death of Folole Muliaga in May 2007. The Mangere mother, reliant on an oxygen machine, had her power cut off after the family fell behind with payments.

Is this just another Key brainfade?  Can’t remember the recent power cuts?  Or is it just another thing he is “clueless” about?

33 comments on “Do the lights ever go out on Planet Key?”

  1. insider 1

    In the 70s there were rolling blackouts because there wasn’t enough generation, due to greater demand growth than anticipated by the central planner. Very different from a line break

    Korea’s not looking a great model to emulate either

    http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-01-09/south-korea-increases-power-prices-second-time-to-curb-demand.html

    Note mercury power was a regulated local govt owned monopoly. It too failed to do its job properly by actually maintaining its assets.

    • geoff 1.1

      In the 70s there were rolling blackouts

      Link? Evidence?

        • Colonial Viper 1.1.1.1

          Uh, insider, the Labour/Green model doesn’t close down any generation capacity.

          • insider 1.1.1.1.1

            I dont believe i suggested it did..

            As an aside green policy I believe does in terms of wanting to shut down huntly as quick as possible and they voted against allowing genesis to build the gas powered huntly 5

            • Colonial Viper 1.1.1.1.1.1

              There’s not going to be much work for Huntly going forwards, if we arrange our generation capacity with a bit of centralised planning.

              • insider

                Huntly was built by centralised planners…

                And realistically it’s not going to be easy to replace our single largest power station let alone one right close to our biggest load centre.

                • Draco T Bastard

                  Do you remember the large discussion we had about Tiwai Point and how closing that down would force Huntly to close because there would be too much power available?

                  • insider

                    I wasn’t part of it sorry. What I would say is, couple of big ifs there and check the constraints at bunnythorpe if you think it’s easy to switch them

                    • Draco T Bastard

                      Actually, it tuns out that most of the needed infrastructure is already in place so it really wouldn’t be hard to bring about.

                • Colonial Viper

                  Huntly was built by centralised planners…

                  Well, since central planning cannot do anything correct, Huntly MUST be closed down ASAP!!!

        • karol 1.1.1.2

          Well Parker’s also incorrect saying there’s been no power cuts between 1970 and 2008. I guess he’s saying that there haven’t been deliberate or planned cuts by the suppliers.

          Mind you, Key on TV3 News tonight, really didn’t explain himself clearly if he mean planned or deliberate cuts.

          • insider 1.1.1.2.1

            Karol, correct. the point is there is a huge difference between systemic and widespread cuts due to a shortfall in production, as happened in the 1970s, and localised failure of a piece of equipment due to bad weather or maintenance gone wrong. To be fair we got a bit close a few times since – 2008 most notably.

            • Draco T Bastard 1.1.1.2.1.1

              The one thing that most people don’t seem to get is that the physical plant has to be built first. Without the massive central planning and funding of the 1970s which built the hydro dams we still would be having the brown outs that we had then. If we’d left it to private enterprise to build the capacity up then we would have much higher prices, some places wouldn’t even have power and the chances are that the infrastructure wouldn’t be any where close to how good it is now simply because the private sector would have cut corners everywhere.

              • insider

                So all those power stations contact, todd and trust power have built in the last 15 years didn’t really happen and don’t really work? The fact they did and do weakens your argument that it could never happen. Overseas examples the same.

                You’re assuming because that’s the way it did happen that’s the only way it could have ever happened. Of course it could never have happened in nz of the 60s and 70s because it was never allowed. Given the first ever power station built in nz was built by private owners, if I’d said that the government never could have done that, you’d quite rightly say that was a stupid thing to say

                • Draco T Bastard

                  You’re assuming because that’s the way it did happen that’s the only way it could have ever happened.

                  Actually, I’m going on history where things that needed to happen didn’t when they were left to the free-market capitalists: Rail, telecommunications, power, etc, etc. None of these happened well under capitalism. They were put in place on an ad hoc basis that failed to supply what the nation needed. It was only after the government got involved that we started to get the services that we needed.

                  Given the first ever power station built in nz was built by private owners, if I’d said that the government never could have done that, you’d quite rightly say that was a stupid thing to say

                  There’s a difference to building one small power station that supplies a couple of businesses and an power grid capable of supplying the entire nation. The people in Hawera have power because of the state building it but they have power cuts because the profit motive that prevents the needed investment.

        • Anne 1.1.1.3

          “There haven’t been any power cuts in New Zealand since the 1970s and we don’t think there will be any this year.”

          said Mr Parker.

          As I said on another post… we had the Arab/Israeli conflict in 1973 and that was followed by a global oil crisis. I remember the carless days, and at one point we were only days away from running out of oil before a tanker arrived at Marsden Wharf. Somebody will correct me if I’m wrong, but I seem to remember we had a few coal and oil powered electricity stations too, so there may have been some black-outs associated with that period.

          Nothing to do with the economic management of the country!

          • Anne 1.1.1.3.1

            Nothing to do with the economic management of the country.

            At least not between 1972-75 when the Kirk/Rowling Labour govt. was in power. Lets remember we had National governments for the previous 12 years so at least some subsequent shortfalls in production can be shot straight back to them for their lack of foresight!

          • rosy 1.1.1.3.2

            “As I said on another post… we had the Arab/Israeli conflict in 1973 and that was followed by a global oil crisis.”

            And droughts… I remember long, hot summers, and droughts.

            http://www.teara.govt.nz/en/hydroelectricity/page-4

            Droughts in 1972 and 1973 resulted in electricity rationing. Shop window lighting, neon advertising and flood lighting were all banned, and domestic users were urged to ‘save power, shower with a friend’.1

            This led directly to the building of the Clyde Dam, I think. Not a greatly supported project after Manapouri. Didn’t that lead to the Jim Anderton rift too? They were interesting times!

            It really depends on what part of the 1970s people are referring to when they talk about economic factors. And yes, I agree, the oil shocks changed everything.

    • Paul 1.2

      So do you believe the 1970s were a worse decade for a New Zealander on the median wage than the present?
      Or are you just being a contrarian?

      • insider 1.2.1

        if you loved price controls, smps, credit controls, import licences, foreign currency travel restrictions, home loan interest rates above z20% yeah is was a workers’ paradise. I’m not really sure your question is at all relevant though.

        • Colonial Viper 1.2.1.1

          Wow you’ve really lost the plot.

          The average worker could raise a family and buy a house on just one wage. That was pretty good.

          • BM 1.2.1.1.1

            Simple times back then, New Zealanders aren’t complete hay seeds anymore.
            NZ is a pretty cosmopolitan place, this back to the 70’s bull shit will only appeal to the old fossils that you find on this site and the whining poms who fled English to escape Thatcher, who unsurprisingly are found on this site as well.

            • Paul 1.2.1.1.1.1

              To explain BM’s terminology…
              “derogatory term for a rural member of the American working class. This cutesy term has a demonizing impact on class consciousness, segregating the rural worker from his urban counterpart.” http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=hayseed
              The fact that BM uses derogatory and demonising language about a part of the working class says a lot about which class he supports.
              This explains why the neo-liberal changes of the 80s suit him and he does not care about the cost of electricity for average New Zealanders.

              • karol

                Yes a lot of attempted smears from BM, little substance. Agism, too. I wouldn’t blame anyone for jumping ship under Thatcher’s watch – though I didn’t know Blingish was there too with Maggie. If that Brit reference is to me – I’m a born and bred Kiwi who did an extended OE in the middle part of my life. By the time I left the UK Thatcher had already been booted out of the top job by her own party.

                There were good and bad things about the 70s. However, the neoliberal turn did nothing to fix the problems. At a time when oil resources are beginning to become an issue, the western/English language world went on a resource-depleting consumerist binge.

                The Labour-Green power policy looks like a return to some of the better aspects of the 70s, plus some different elements relevant to the contemporary world: eg, from the Greens, a focus on sustainability, and incentives to encourage new and possibly smaller power generators.

    • karol 1.3

      I was not living in NZ in the 1990s, and only for 3-4 years in the 70s (mostly early 70s). So I can’t speak a lot about them. As I recall from reading somewhere, it wasn’t so much the anticipations of the central planner, just that it took a while for an adequate amount of power generation to be built. Yes demand grew more than expected after WWII, but I doubt it could have been possible to build it quickly enough if it had been anticipated.

      The reports I read tonight, on the 1998 crisis – it looked to me that Mercury blamed the poor maintenance prior to their control. However, others blamed the commercialisation of the power supply.

      Since I’ve come back to NZ in the 21st century, I have been surprised at the number of power outages. They were exceedingly rare when I lived in London and Sydney.

      Whatever the causes, power cuts have been happening in recent times. And planned rolling blackouts wouldn’t make much difference to people who can’t afford power anyway.

      • insider 1.3.1

        There is internationally comparable reliability data and we usually do ok -SAIDI CAIDI and SAIFI. but Nz has a pretty thin network due to our size. Quite recently Transpower cut power to the whole of kaitaia or dargaville when it needed to work on key equipment as there is no network redundancy up there and no generation

    • Paul 1.4

      Here’s some evidence of power cuts today…
      “Repeated power cuts are plaguing hundreds of rural Hawera properties and has one businessman at his wit’s end.”
      http://www.stuff.co.nz/taranaki-daily-news/news/8570847/Power-cuts-frustrate-users

  2. kiwi_prometheus 2

    Its amazing how the Nats have clung to power at all, but when you look at the alternative you can see why 100000s of nzers are not even bothering to vote at all anymore. 8(

  3. Chris 3

    key’s light is on but there is no-one at home.

  4. kiwicommie 4

    Another ‘central planned’ thing that can’t exist according to National party logic because everything has to be made by private business and the state ‘can’t create jobs’: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TGV
    “In 1976 the French government funded the TGV project, and construction of the LGV Sud-Est, the first high-speed line (French: ligne à grande vitesse), began shortly afterwards. The line was given the designation LN1, Ligne Nouvelle 1, (meaning New Line 1).”

  5. Populuxe1 5

    The lights might not ever go out, but most of the bulbs are quite dim

  6. Roy 6

    I think that a more appropriate question than the headline would be ‘Does the light of truth ever shine in John Key’s brain?’

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