Why privatised power is awesome (or not)

This video gives a good account of what happens when a grid operated as a privatised auction minute to minute to provide power rather than centrally planned and operated system with reliability rather than profit as it’s overriding consideration faces adversity.

Coming to a suburb in EZFKA sometime soon…

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Peachy

Thanks for this. My takeaways are that Texas actually did an amazing job, from a technical perspective, of managing through this crisis, from the starting point they found themselves in. They protected the infrastructure and had power back on in a couple of days.

Just imagine how something like this would be handled in the EZFKA. The electrical regulator would be staffed by a mix of:

  • At the lower levels – recent import “engineers” who have trouble following a procedure manual (forget independent thinking, let alone crisis management)
  • at the mid tier – imports of an older vintage who had to be promoted after kicking around the lower levels for long enougj
  • at the top tier – shitlord “executive” appointed to their positions because they are mates with somebody important. Previous relevant “engineering” experience likely from being a resi builder some years back. Maybe a sparkie, if lucky.

At the very top would be the “somebody important”. Political party hack appointed to the energy portfolio because he couldn’t be trusted with anything important.

The EZFKA grid would’ve fallen over in Feb and would still be down. Government would be importing 200,000 more “engineers” as the plan to fix it.

Last edited 6 months ago by Peachy
Jollyrodger

Top tier is the managerial class. They are good at managing people apparently and don’t need technical ability. If not from a political appointment, then from BCG or some other management consultant.

Peachy

I hear that they are good at managing people to achieve results, particularly when those people are good and need no managing.

When the good people leave and results turn to brown, they are very good at deflecting any blame onto the remaining people.

Then they get promoted or take a on other internal role for which they take no accountability.

This is the EZFKA way. It is particularly so in the EZFKA departments that are taxpayer funded – banks, utilities, public service.

Small business that actually has to deliver products or starve doesn’t tend to have a lot of managerial folk.

Jollyrodger

In a utility these days, the EZFKA way is to outsource all the manual doing things. Three days ago, a new townhouse block needed to be connected to the grid. It wasn’t the utility company doing it, but it was contracted out. The only lower levels are being thinned out and outsourced

Peachy

Also I think that this is a good illustration of how some challenges are physical rather than economic/financial engineering.

At the end of the day, very severe weather caused about a third of the generation capacity offline.

the price of gas doesn’t mean jack in that situation. The only fix would have been to have 30% surplus generation capacity to begin with, and that’s a silly solution if it’s only purpose is to weather a 1 in 50 year storm. 3 days without power every 50 years seems more sensible than running 30% excess generation.

Peachy

I understand what you’re saying in terms of incentives and I agree with the principles.

But then we need to talk about scale – fiddling with the incentive knobs might result in capacity of say 10% > peak being maintained. But not 30% or 50% – that’s too expensive. too expensive for what? Too expensive to avoid the risk of 3 days without power every 50 years. And if we go down that road, why not have 100% excess capacity, to cater for the 1-in-200 year storm?

Remember the gold-plated poles and wires outcry in some state a few years back…? That’s was much smaller scale if I remember.

EZFKA doesn’t really have heavy industrial users like smelters to shut down to reduce demand, so it’s got that going against it as well.

Anyhow, if we are talking about significant over-capacity as insurance you’d need to consider other options. A cheap one is a $500 generator and 200L of diesel fuel at each house.

Peachy

Actually it’s probably a more expensive option at scale. 

I dunno – at scale that generator is probably only $100, if you’re buying 5 million units. Could maybe even make them here.

with all the other stuff I agree. The profit motive and fragmentation will of course result in much less redundancy & forward planning.

Peachy

Nah, not mains equivalent – just enough to run a few applicances – fridge, computer, a few fans, kettle/hotplate.

not wired in either – just an extension cord from outside through the window.

We’re talking about surviving for 3 days every few decades. You’d need a strong bloke to start it though, after 10 years of sitting there. I think I know someone who could do mine.

Last edited 6 months ago by Peachy
Freddy

Interesting that the Nuclear power plant had to be shutdown due to cooling water freezing. I always believed Nuclear would be the way to go if we ever entered another ice age (not arguing timeframe or Climate Change).

Last edited 6 months ago by Freddy
Peachy

Yes, that’s an important point. The Russians don’t take their generation offline jsut because it’s 30 below 0.

The infrastructure could be built with weatherproofing to cope with arctic conditions every winter, but that’s a loopy thing to do in Texas.

Last edited 6 months ago by Peachy
Freddy

Thanks for clarification.

Stewie

Fascinating video – very informative. Thanks!