That’s cold

Written By: - Date published: 6:31 am, July 11th, 2017 - 50 comments
Categories: capitalism, energy - Tags: , , ,

In a wtaf? moment, power companies in Otago are doing day long power cuts for maintenance in the middle of winter.

On Monday,

More than 700 South Dunedin households were without power for much of today as Aurora energy crews replaces power poles

It’s also coinciding with a snow storm about to hit the South Island. Metservice have issued a road snow warning for the state highway heading north out of Dunedin. This isn’t a big dump of snow in Dunedin, but for those that haven’t lived in the south, in a damp cold climate it’s the windchill that kills.

There are further cuts planned over the next few months for Central Otago where day time temperatures can be below zero.

Aurora Energy was called out last year for its woeful maintenance after one of its former managers turned whistleblower. Chunks of its infrastructure (e.g. power poles) were deemed as unsafe when a subsequent report was released late last year.

I expect problems like this to increase. Climate change will put additional pressures on systems that have been run down by neoliberalism and where too many managers no longer have the common sense to operate those systems in a socially competent way. But I also think that people are resilient and despite the pressures on society from the plunder monkeys we still have many good folk around. We need to look to our collective resources, both in formal systems and informal ones going forward, and build on those while we still have them.

Despite the criticisms of Clare Curran and Labour in the past, having a Labour MP in Dunedin willing to look out for people who are cold is actually worth a lot.

Update: looks like Aurora cancelled some of its Dunedin power cuts yesterday “due to unforeseen circumstances“.

50 comments on “That’s cold”

  1. tc 1

    Our totally pissweak commerce commission should be all over this but they’re too busy rubber stamping mergers and acquisitions and handing out wet bus tickets.

    An audit would show if its deliberately not planning or clueless as to the condition of poles etc. Soooo many players, all failing in their responsibilities to the consumer.

    Power needs to be renationalised if its ever going to be reasonably priced with this dysfunctional ticket clipping designed structure in place currently.

    • Heather Grimwood 1.1

      To tc at I : agree wholeheartedly that electricity needs to be renationalised. I am sick of pestering from power company lackeys at my door ( though feeling mighty sorry for their personal plight). Besides with a nationalised system, any profits went into the government’s own coffers.
      Really great policy re power subsidies just announced by Labour! Sorely needed and the need responded to with compassionate action.
      Incidentally skipped early swim this morning on account of likely black ice on road.

      • Johan 1.1.1

        Ooooops, I thought that the concept of breaking up a monopoly was to create more competition, thus giving consumers a better deal. Electricity, Food stores, Petrol stations, broadband companies, etc. are just some outlets which have some of the highest prices on a world wide comparison. Where have we gone wrong?

        • Draco T Bastard 1.1.1.1

          Ooooops, I thought that the concept of breaking up a monopoly was to create more competition, thus giving consumers a better deal.

          That’s the hypothesis. Doesn’t work though. Just costs us more in greater amounts of bureaucracy and the added costs of the dead-weight loss of profit.

          Where have we gone wrong?

          We believed the capitalists when they said that they’d give us a deal too good to be true.

          • tc 1.1.1.1.1

            Multiple systems, management, processes all marked up for shareholder returns. More SAP installs than you can poke a stick at for a country of less than 10mill is a joke.

            commcomm also rubber stamped virtually every m&a proposal so the competition is consumed with generators owning nearly all the retailers.

            Fletchers recent higgins purchase, woolies buying progressive, voda eating telstra clear just a few examples of bad outcomes for the end user.

            • Graeme 1.1.1.1.1.1

              Here we’ve got a CCO owning assets outside their own district, and then running (asset stripping) them for their own council’s benefit. All under the ultimate oversight of your average plonker councillor, and the council is separated by several layers of organisation so they probably don’t have a clue what’s going on.

              The ideal solution would be to get the lines companies back into local community ownership, like the old power boards. I wouldn’t have a clue how you’d achieve this, short of government involvement to buy them back and re-capitalise them, but the current situation in Otago is going to fall to bits if something drastic doesn’t happen soon.

  2. Gristle 2

    Electricity prices (the energy component) in NZ are about the same as the USA. In the 1990’s the Government created a fiction was established that the generators could charge for cheap hydro power as though it was expensive thermal power. As a result the government and other shareholders got massive dividends.

    Nationalisation is not the answer if this rort on consumers continues.

    As for the other parts of the industry:
    1. The national grid is owned by the government already. So that can’t be nationalised.
    2. The local distribution companies are often owned by the local consumers and could be characterised as being in public ownership. So it is only the ones like Powerco that are investor owned which should be brought back to local ownership.

    • joe90 2.1

      Electricity prices (the energy component) in NZ are about the same as the USA.

      Residential rates in the U.S. seem to range from around an average 8.37/¢/kWh in the lower 48 to 37.34¢/kWh in diesel dependent Hawaii and up to 62.01¢/kWh in remote far north communities.

      http://www.electricitylocal.com/

    • inspider 2.2

      Is Powerco planning an outage for its customers at the time of highest demand? Why would you want to force them to be like Aurora?

    • Draco T Bastard 2.3

      Nationalisation is not the answer if this rort on consumers continues.

      But we need to nationalise to stop the rort and we’d do that by turning power into a government service. Every account holder would then get a free amount that they can use every month and anything above that they have to pay for.

      The government wouldn’t get any dividends as all surplus income that the power department has would go to building up more infrastructure.

  3. Ad 3

    The big problem for lines companies will be the growing electricity surges as unstable wind (and to a much smaller degree solar) energy pulses the loading, while the big hydro generation has a much more predictable loading and hence wear and tear upon the network.

    Would be great to see the Electricity Commission reviewed by a future government for consumer responsibility, not just proof that the bulk cost truly reflects the asset management plan.

    And while we are at it we could give EECA a kick up the bum as well.

    • Draco T Bastard 3.1

      The big problem for lines companies will be the growing electricity surges as unstable wind…

      I’m sure that they planned for that when they put the wind generation in.

  4. inspider 4

    Aurora is community owned monopoly operating in a highly regulated industry with mandated constraints on pricing. I other words it’s a standardista’s wet dream. This is nothing to do with neoliberalism, and just the kind of brainless approach you get from unaccountable technocrats.

    • Ad 4.1

      The politics is deep in there for Aurora.
      Aurora is a part of the Council holding company.

      If you go back over the last six years you will see that the holding company was required to pay huge amounts of dividends to the Dunedin City Council.

      This was due to Dunedin Council going into massive debt to build the Dunedin Forsyth Barr Stadium.

      So as a result of having to pay millions in dividends up to the holding company, to in turn pony up to the shareholder, Aurora stripped itself bare of cash and therefore didn’t have the money to to the proper maintenance of its assets.

      This came to light when a few citizens called out how unsafe many of the poles were. It took far too long for either Dunedin Council or Aurora to acknowledge this.

      I cannot understand why the Electricity Commission didn’t have the power to come in and order them to make their network safe. They need those regulatory powers, fast.

      This situation is politics up to its eyeballs.

      • inspider 4.1.1

        But yet this is the model that many standardistas promote – community control and intervention by politicians. It’s no surprise to ‘neo liberals’ that the network is falling apart because the monopoly income stream is being used to prop up politicians’ dream projects.

        • weka 4.1.1.1

          It’s not community controlled. Aurora is owned by a business that is owned by the DCC.

          Where is the intervention by politicians?

          • Ad 4.1.1.1.1

            The shareholding is 100% to the City of Dunedin, who are democratically elected.

            Doesn’t mean the model is wrong.
            Just means in this case politics is really important.

            • weka 4.1.1.1.1.1

              Pretty sure that’s not what people on TS mean when they talk about community owned.

              And the ability of councils to run cities and districts for the needs of the community has been altered by neoliberalism. Inspider is implying that the model is what lefties want, and ignoring where there are problems with the model. This leftie wants a model where the DCC could direct the business to run itself with social issues in mind. Pretty sure that can’t happen the way things are now.

              • Ad

                Good to see your pan-site knowledge of what TS means by anything.

                Inspider is critiquing the absence of any alternative.

                Does any political party have a fresh definition of community ownership of lines companies?

                • weka

                  funny, seeing as how you provided a pretty good explanation of how the situation has been affected by neoliberalism.

              • inspider

                We’ll what do you mean by community owned? Shares held by individuals in the community?

                The council did exactly what you said you want it to do. It directed aurora to send increased profits to the council to fund the stadium. That was a social issue it was trying to manage. QED.

                • weka

                  Yes, that’s the neoliberal effect on councils. Power is a basic need, stadiums aren’t. Councils should be directing their companies to place social wellbeing alongside or ahead of shareholder profit.

                  Besides, I’m talking about what should be happening this month, not just over years. Council should be able to recognise a problem and step in to prevent it.

                  • inspider

                    Oh FFS. I repeat, the council (quite left leaning from the mayor down) extracted the profits for a social enterprise they chose to support. They behaved in exactly the way two posts ago you said you want them to behave. As it turns out their intervention caused the problem over lack of maintenance, and did not prevent it. The exact opposite outcome to what you wanted occurred. (but this was an entirely predictable outcome to any so called neo liberal if you’d bothered to ask and listen)

                    • Draco T Bastard

                      The exact opposite outcome to what you wanted occurred. (but this was an entirely predictable outcome to any so called neo liberal if you’d bothered to ask and listen)

                      And the same thing happened with our telecommunications once privatised and we ended up with the government having to cough up subsidies to private enterprise to get that which should have been installed from the profits that we’d already paid. Exactly the opposite of what the neo-liberals predicted would happen.

        • Draco T Bastard 4.1.1.2

          No it’s not. It’s the capitalists wet dream. Huge profits, no responsibility and set up for sale to the private sector.

        • Paul Campbell 4.1.1.3

          No this whole mess is a massive failure by private enterprise – for profit professional rugby – they promised us a stadium completely financed by private fundraising – and we had an election based on that proposition.

          The private trust that rugby formed pushed the city to back their proposal, then with the city being a backup financier, then when they couldn’t find any private fundraising, they hit up the City, the Regional Council and Central Govt for over $100m, while still promising to raise $55m, when that didn’t work they had the city borrow the $55m too ….

          They also promised the stadium would make a small operating profit, instead it loses millions a year, every ticket is now subsidised by the ratepayers.

          The city used to have a profitable set of companies (created when it sold its power generation facilities back when the central govt told it it couldn’t own both power lines and a hydro dam – assets that were a profitable investment made by past generations of ratepayers) – they used to pay dividends which appeared yearly as rebates on our rates bills.

          Now all that money goes to pay for the rugby stadium money pit and to subsidise rugby tickets

          What this is is a blatant case of corporate welfare – private enterprise should be ashamed

          • Paul Campbell 4.1.1.3.1

            BTW by the time this is all done, this is all going to cost the city over half a billion dollars, and that’s not including the day to day running losses, currently being funded partly by the council companies and partly by direct grants from the ratepayers

    • Graeme 4.2

      The issue isn’t so much Aurora, but their council owners who have asset stripped Aurora to subsidise Dunedin City’s rates.

      But this asset stripping doesn’t only affect the Dunedin City area, Central Otago and Queenstown Lakes have also had their infrastructure trashed to pay Dunedin’s bills. So resident’s in these areas aren’t too happy about the situation. Especially when Auroa want’s to put it’s charges up to fix the situation.

      It’s not just poles either, EVERYTHING has been run down so we are wide open for a major collapse of the network. We’re really hoping that we don’t get a big snow in Central, one like some of the falls we had in early 90’s would be catastrophic with the current state of our power network.

  5. Cinny 5

    Power cuts down the deep south in the middle of winter…. if you don’t have a fire or either can’t afford wood or run out of it, what then? Hospital? Hypothermia? Death?

    It’s 2017 this should not be happening.

    If the lines are that bad and in need of that much repair, why on earth did they not get the work completed before the winter?

    • Draco T Bastard 5.1

      If the lines are that bad and in need of that much repair, why on earth did they not get the work completed before the winter?

      The answer to that is the reason for why they were that bad in the first place and that reason is because profits were being pulled out of it instead of proper maintenance being done.

  6. jcuknz 6

    Similar clueless carry on by well paid ‘council’ beaurocrats, somewhere in the south island where the regional council folk are insisting of wood burners older than 15 years be stripped out to save a bit of pollution…. so folk are too scared to light up and keep warm for fear of the council. … [Morning Report today]
    Either way the morge or hospitals get business as pensioners etc freeze.

  7. RedLogix 7

    @weka

    systems that have been run down by neoliberalism and where too many managers no longer have the common sense to operate those systems in a socially competent way.

    ++++ !!!

    The insane idea that somehow ‘managers’ didn’t need to actually know much about the core operations of the business they’re running will be the end of us. I’ve spent 40 years subverting the worst impacts of these desk-apes. Over it … totally.

    • weka 7.1

      yep. The cool thing is that when you talk to people working in those kinds of organisations there are still good people in there, including those who are old enough to remember what things were like before neoliberalism. I reckon we’ve got a window to put things right before those people are gone.

      • Graeme 7.1.2

        Not so sure about Delta / Aurora. The rot goes pretty deep there, and has done for a long time. Some of the old OCEPB people are still around, but not many. Most of them have either retired, died or left because they couldn’t stand the incompetent, corrupt outfit any more.

      • Red 7.1.3

        Yes we all rember the fantastic post office re getting a phone, sending goods by rail because you had to , the ministry of no works, the huge inefficiency and wastage with no incentive to change or innovate, the lack of choices, yep the good old days when Britain paid for it by taking as much frozen mutton we could produce. Shame about that EEC hick up in 72 though if only those currency controls price and wage freezes went on a bit longer to keep the party going and we got another 10 years of Muldoon things would be fine

        • Draco T Bastard 7.1.3.1

          Yes we all rember the fantastic post office re getting a phone

          Did you realise that it can take longer getting a phone today than it did then?

          sending goods by rail because you had to

          Amazingly enough if the trucks actually paid for all the damage that they do to the roads rather than being heavily subsidised by private cars you’d still be sending them by rail. Oh, wait, all the trucking companies want better rail services.

          the ministry of no works

          Worked incredibly well. It produced skilled people and developed and built a hell of a lot of the infrastructure that our nation needed to progress our economy.

          Basically, you’re just regurgitating all the lies of the capitalists. And we know they’re lies because their preferred way is costing us more and delivering us less.

          • Richard McGrath 7.1.3.1.1

            “Did you realise that it can take longer getting a phone today than it did then?”

            Oh Jesus what planet have you been on? Today anyone can buy a cell phone and have it working a few hours later

            • Draco T Bastard 7.1.3.1.1.1

              Apples and oranges.

              Need to compare connecting a land-line with connecting a land-line. And connecting a land-line in some places in NZ takes months or can’t even be connected at all.

              And here’s the thing. It never took that long to connect a land-line even in the 1980s unless the physical plant wasn’t yet installed. Difficult to get around that last bit. Most phones would have been connected in a day or two and it only took that long because it required actual physical connection.

              The privatisation has done absolutely nothing to improve service. In fact, in many cases, service seems to have declined. All we’re seeing is technological improvements and that was happening faster when telecommunications was a state monopoly.

            • Shona 7.1.3.1.1.2

              WRONG!@Richard Mcgrath. no cellphone coverage in my area(rural and the population keeps growing)There are NO plans to ever provide mobile coverage here or ultra fibre either. So yeah nah landlines are vital in rural areas.

              • Shona

                We have 5 other households now using the phoneline the post office put in for us 38 years ago. And the contractors grumbled it was a waste of money. Every household on that line has fast broadband now making money for the private sector.It took 2 weeks from application for it to go in and the phone to be connected. It cost us nothing. A friend had to pay 7 years later after the privatization of Telecom over $30,000 to for a phone line running a similar distance in this same area. Admittedly it was up hill all the way.

        • halfcrown 7.1.3.2

          “the ministry of no works, the huge inefficiency and wastage with no incentive to change or innovate,”

          I strongly object to that statement and once again you have not got a clue to what you are talking about. Late 70’s early 80’s I was working for a company that were heavily involved in some major infrastructure projects by the both the then MOW and NZCED. The engineers we dealt with were highly skilled, motivated and certainly incentivised to get the best job done. A lot were Poms who had worked on/in power stations in the UK, but also a lot of NZCED trained apprentices who were also very good. One problem that was fixed by these engineers, the principle supplier of that particular piece of equipment could not believe that such an efficient job could be done in less time than they allowed and sent one of their chiefs out to investigate. He was ASTOUNDED at the high level of work done and how they achieved it.
          Also back then the roading by the MOW was of good construction, not full of pot holes and patches like the roads are today, It appears to me, it is not in the interests of these private contractors to make sure they are fixed to last, this would cut down any future work ie profit, bonuses and payouts to shareholders.
          Sure there was waste there is always waste but there was not a culture of inefficiency and waste we hear in these mythological tales. If you think that there is no waste going on today you are totally disillusioned, private companies are also subject to waste but the taxpayer now has the added cost of the “profit” margin so big bonuses can be paid out to the CEO’s. All the years I had dealings with these departments I have NEVER ever seen duplication or waste.
          I could tell you similar tales about the old GPO you know the old GPO before it was sold and the obscene profits went offshore. One wonders how many hospitals that would have built. Yes, you had to wait for a phone like I have had to wait 6 weeks to get fibre connected. So what’s the difference?
          I agree things had to change we were fortrees NZ. No lover of Piggy but I think he really had New Zealands interests at heart more than can be said for the politicians today Labour or National.
          I was one of those who welcomed the change, but it has not turned out for the better we are no more efficient today as then, in fact, we have gone backwards. Today it is profit at any cost with no thought for people the environment or the future.

          I suggest mate stop reading the National party DAN DARE comics and the Herald and get some decent informative reading under your belt before you write any further right wing mythological bullshit.

        • Psycho Milt 7.1.3.3

          Yes we all rember … sending goods by rail because you had to…

          Fuck that was great, I wish we still had that. Every time I’m on SH1 stuck behind trucks and bouncing around on all the potholes and corrugations they create, I remember those halcyon days of few trucks on the roads and wish we had them back again.

    • joe90 7.2

      Over it … totally.

      Many years ago on a hot stick course, my tutor remarked in his best west Texas drawl – y’all should never let yer bean counters run yer engineering – which is exactly what has happened in the electricity distribution sector since Bradford decided to fix things.

      • tc 7.2.1

        Beancounters run IT mostly now, as 1 example, with the CIO being a manager of budgets juggling scarce resources to address ageing infrastructure and change.

        Then theres the absence of any actual business knowledge as the sociopathic management flushed that away to bring its mates on board.

  8. Sabine 8

    not only in the south island, also middle of north island.

    and yes, obviously the time to fix power poles is in winter.

  9. Kevin 9

    Why are we even persisting with a continuation of the current network setup.
    100s of thousands of kms of lines, towers and related infrastructure that all need eye-boggling amounts of money spent on them on a regular basis.

    The technology is out there and affordable enough to completely eliminate the current setup at the domestic users level.

    Why are all current and future residential developments not being mandated as being energy independent of the grid for starters?

    Solar, micro wind turbines, power wall battery technology, geothermal heat exchange etc.

    Maintaining the status quo just to protect corporate profits is just bananas.

  10. Philj 10

    So, you can freeze in yur wee hoose or ye’ can hav a boutique All weather stadium fir yer footie? I ‘Ken which yin I would huv?

    • McFlock 10.1

      Yeah.

      Although to be fair apparently the poles should have started being replaced in the mid-nineties, so the asset-stripping has been going on a while before the stadium (which I’m not a fan of).

      For a town that votes Labour in the general elections, we seem to vote tory for our councillors. Sigh.

  11. jcuknz 11

    McFlock
    I thought Dunedin was basically a silly Green council. Voting Tory was in the sensible past.
    I came to Dunedin in 1967 … it is a great place despite the fool council. Voted for Wards and effectively dis enfranchised me [North Harbour]with just one person to elect … that was whinging from the left caused thatt. Local elections are a sad joke but fool me keeps on voting regardless
    Trouble is the meme that profit is more important than service.

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