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The best dividend is POWER!

Written By: - Date published: 9:51 am, October 30th, 2009 - 18 comments
Categories: privatisation - Tags:

At this point it seems a bit pointless coming to work this morning. I’m sitting in a dark office with the cheeping of UPS’s (uninterruptible power supplies) and ozone as the batteries discharge keeping servers alive.

The entire crew are sitting around waiting for the power to come back on, like large number of people in Auckland this morning.

Power went out over West Auckland, North Shore, and Rodney this morning at about 8am. Servers are crashing as their UPS batteries are running out of power. I can’t get coffee, the cafe has gas but no plungers. Even then I couldn’t pay – no EFTPOS.

A large chunk of business capital of Auckland is not working.

Transpower says about 280,000 customers from West Auckland, North Shore and Northland are affected.

Transpower spokesman Geoff Wishart said the main Otahuhu-Henderson line was tripped while maintenance was being carried out on the back-up line.

By the sound of it, the chronic lack of capital investment by the power companies is impacting on the Auckland region again. This is a repeat of the 1998 power problems in Auckland Central with inadequate capacity being put in early enough to carry the loads.

Perhaps it is time to look at de-privatising the power grid and start doing some serious investment. Rather than going for dividends to shareholders, especially the government, we’d get better dividends from keeping businesses running.

Update: Our power just came back on. Now to clear the debris.

18 comments on “The best dividend is POWER! ”

  1. Bill 1

    And for almost the entire first two paras I thought I was going to be treated to some bleak post apocalyptic Sci-fi. But no. Just another day in Auckland.

    Oh well.

  2. vto 2

    Always been nervous about reliance on power for so much today – eftpos, coffee, etc. The classic is electronics in cars – lose power and cant wind down the windows. A major flaw in so much of our system today. A flaw that does not become apparent in any way until it has happenned, in which case it is too late. And often dangerous.

    Bring back the mechanical!

    • lprent 2.1

      Yeah – I carry 9 hours of power for the laptop with me… What I really need is one of those 3rd world pump action batteries because it looks like the power networks are heading that way… (also good for muscle tone.)

    • Draco T Bastard 2.2

      And that is also why Peak Oil is a such a concern. Without the power/energy that it supplies most of our civilisation doesn’t work.

  3. insider 3

    Well there was a fair bit of fantasy in it Bill.

    This is nothing to do with investment. It is pure and simply a management failure. The region was running on a single line while the other was being maintained,The people on site it appears then chose to drive a forklift through the remaining line.

    so you have 100% redundancy in the system already, not bad when it comes to $500m of infrastructure. How much more do you want to pay for your power for another line just in case someone can’t drive? Wouldn’t it be much simpler to improve management processes?

    Same thing happened last year when newmarket went out. They were working on the site (again) and someone mucked up and the system overloaded.

    So the only way that this is in any way reflective of 1998 is that it is a managemet eff up, because that was caused not by investment but by the people running the system not maintaining it properly.

    The pattern is not investment the pattern is management practices.

    • RedLogix 3.1


      I’d agree that there has clearly been a management/competency failure here. Once upon a time the power system was designed, built and operated by engineering people. Privatisation marginalises them.

      The technical people who just want to get on with doing the best job they can finish up fighting political battles to just to survive, ideas get squashed by layers of managers, marketing, sales and assorted itinerant bean counters… who have no idea of what the organisation actually does.

      • insider 3.1.1


        the system that failed was one that was built pre-privatisation. It should be noted that the failure rate in the system was a lot higher then too.

  4. Deus ex Machina 4

    As a rural dweller whose power goes off every time it rains, and quite often when it doesn’t, I use wood for cooking and heating (space and water), have candles permanently on stand-by and a generator for when the power looks like it’s going to be off for more than four hours, in order to be able to give the freezers a boost – (we have three sizeable freezers as you do when you have your own cattle-beasts to fill them.)

    And once again I hear bleating from Aucklanders about short-falls in their infrastructure – and how they expect all New Zealanders to pay for the remedy.

    • lprent 4.1

      Do you have 30 odd people hanging around waiting for the power to come back on so that they can work on exports? This affected 280k customers, we were ONE of those customers. The wage cost loss alone was major.

      Getting even a third of the money that Auckland generates towards infrastructure for NZ would allow us to massively improve it. The level of cross-subsidization is all from Auckland to you – not that you’d ever believe it when you listen to the whining from rural as they grasp the subsidies like the ETS.

    • insider 4.2

      LEst it be forgotten, Sydney has had three such cuts in the last year affecting their central business districts. Melbourne had similar last year. Auckland is not alone and nor is it third world.

  5. Peter Wilson 5

    I have a keen interest in energy issues, because energy is absolutely fundamental to just about everything we do. Without it, it’s as you say, a bunch of people sitting around in a dark office. And, after the realities of peak oil hit (which will hit NZ harder in the transport sector than electricity at first), we’ll quickly work out just how far down a fraying line we are hanging.

    Anyway, Transpower run on an “n-1” policy. It basically means that they provide for one failure. That means if something is down for maintenance, and the one operative circuit fails, then it’s lights-out. Turns out that this is standard policy for most grid operators world-wide – the days of the gold-plated grids of the 1950s and 1960s are over – we complain about power prices, and hate spending anything above the minimum on investment, but as a result we get far less security.

    I have a feeling that the blackout today will be looked upon fondly in years to come as the good old days, as power shortages (not due to generator failures, but a simple lack of materials and resources for investment) become more frequent.

    • Draco T Bastard 5.1

      Once the realities of Peak Oil hit NZ will have to become self-sufficient again as it’s rather difficult to export or import anything when you can’t afford to get it delivered.

      • insider 5.1.1

        bollox. How did we trade before oil?

        • Draco T Bastard

          Sure, we could export live sheep/cows on sailing ships but as we will be one of the first nations to lose access to fuel oil it’s probably going to be a little expensive in the markets that still have such access.

          • pube

            The end of the world is nigh, the end of the world is nigh repent repent.

          • Peter Wilson

            It’s not as bad as all that of course – live exports are not required. We happily sent lots of refrigerated stuff on sailing ships with auxiliary engines to power the freezers well before oil became a regular commodity. And, there’s every chance we can secure or produce a fuel supply here on these islands for essentials. It just means a massive reduction in the amount of personal energy we use – either we collectivise things we currently do individually, or we’re faced with a desperate scramble and hoarding for resources. That won’t end well, or help anyone in the long run.

            I also find it quite interesting how every time anyone talks about these topics that other folks assume you’re preaching doom and gloom, and the end of the world. Why is it that we are only capable of sustaining two myths about the world – the myth of “endless growth and progress”, with its polar opposite being total destruction and the end of the world.

            Neither will come to pass, but then again, is this a rhetorical trick used to justify not having these important conversations?

  6. Steve 6

    I had an interview at 9am this morning. I arrived on time, the interviewer was late, blamed traffic lights not working.
    No lights in his office, so I suggested we sit by a window.
    No computer working so he could not interview me. I gave him the note and he proceeded to start, but with no computer we could not continue.
    I gave him a pen and paper, and watched his face go red as beetroot.
    Common sense ain’t that common these days

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