Nuff Nuff

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Cut My Power & Remove My Ability to make Life-Saving Decisions

An article today in the Herald-Sun claims Power Could be Cut on Catastrophic & High Risk Bushfire Days To Stop Fires 31.03.2010 that Electricity Distributor Powercor, is considering cutting power to high risk towns on days of extreme fire danger to remove the possibility of fires started through fallen/sparking overhead electricity wires.

This outage covers 52 towns, plus those little hamlets in-between, from Angelsea to Bendigo. That means no restaurants, no ice-cream, no take-away, no swimming pools, no shopping centres, no supermarkets, in fact NO tourism. People would learn to stay away and the income lost would destroy 1000’s of lives and certainly more than one business.

In theory it might seem good, but it can’t and won’t work and will cause more deaths than fires will and have.

People rely on electricity for many things, not just air-conditioning. Simple things like:-
Drinking water,
Septic systems,
Toilet flushing,
Fire warnings,
Contact with the outside world,
Hot Water,
Opening and Closing garage doors,
Life-support systems,
Asthma pumps.

These are just SOME of the problems that residents will be faced with. This reaction by Powercor is one of let’s not maintain the lines, let’s not worry about the maintenance, let’s just turn the power off and we can reduce electricity load AND reduce our liability. If’s there’s no power, people can’t sue for downed power lines which may have caused fires. Quote from above article “A Powercor Australia spokesman said turning off the power was a way of preventing electrical assets starting fires in extreme situations.”

Without electricity I would now likely be without my parents – as referred to Here

As a receiver of said electricity and as the payer of said supply charges, I will have to consider not paying the ‘supply charge’ component of my bill as they are not supplying me with a product I am paying for. What would happen then? I would be sued, for not paying a component of my bill, which they failed to supply. Imagine if EVERY person who has their electricity cut on high risk days followed this method, what would be the outcome?

On days when it is being considered cutting power to homes in high-risk areas, these are the exact same days that the very old, the very young, and the frail are most likely to be affected by the heat and this may possibly cause death.

From this article Dept of Health - Environment - 2007 it is claimed that there are 1000 heat-related deaths in people over the age of 65 and that these deaths are expected to climb substantially by 2050. It is possible that a rise in deaths of between 11-16%is possible. Are you prepared to die or allow your parents or children to die because an electricity supplier thinks it’s safer to cut the electricity rather than maintain the lines, like they should have been doing for the past 10-20 years?

I know I'm not prepared to die, although I am prepared for the encroachment of fire on my home and my life, I shouldn't be unfairly punished because I live in an area that is considered high risk. Remember there are areas of metropolitian Melbourne that are also considered high risk and if the fires of Black Saturday had managed to encroach on those areas, the authorities were already prepared to shut major roads and let those suburbs burn.

Electricity suppliers can't cut the power in lieu of maintenance, the governing body MUST ensure that the correct maintenance is done in accordance with all rules, regulations and laws they are governed by.

31.03.10 - 15.24hrs - I've just been shown this article CPUC Rejects SDG&E's Power Shutoff Plan from a San Diego newspaper in the USA. It covers EXACTLY what I have referred to above.

Note:- "Critics of SDG&E's proposal have argued it would leave vast parts of the county without vital services during times of emergency. Water couldn't be pumped, medical devices would be inoperative and residents would not be able to turn on their televisions, radios and computers or receive phone calls to get critical emergency information, according to opponents of the plan."

"The shut-off plan has always been a diversion from the real problem: for years, SDG&E has failed to enact known safety measures that would prevent wildfire caused by its infrastructure,"

Turning off the power will cause the loss of more life, through heat stroke, and/or accidents and house fires, than bushfires would cause. The events of Black Saturday were claimed to be a once in a 100 year event. Yet if the electricity suppliers had it their way - they'd shut off the power when the sun sneezed.


4030lisa said...

Amazing to me that they (electric co), so far, appear to have NOT drawn up a pros/cons list prior to making such a foolish, willy nilly announcement. Yes, cutting power MIGHT save some physical damage to property, but who is to say that any would actually be sustained? could be a complete longshot and to cut power on a hunch...thats just NOT good business for anyone. Sounds as if this electric providers whole plan should be re-evaluated from the very shallow bottom up...

Chronic Infoholic said...

This is not an issue of Powercor not performing maintenance. It's a case of of Powercor skimping on infrastructure investment. The power lines, (particularly main distribution lines, in fire prone areas should laid underground. Yes it is expensive to do this (I know because I used to work for a power supply authority) but in the long run it eliminates a number of problems.

If the infrastructure is underground there is no need to maintain poles and wires. There is no risk of these lines causing fires or being cut because fire damages them.

This situation highlights one of the main problems with the privatised electricity network. The contract under which the private companies are engaged do not provide sufficient incentive for the private companies to invest in new infrastructure or maintain existing infrastructure.

It ain't so (most of the time) said...

Thanks Ci for the comment (sorry about the reporduction, but the comment got eaten) You mention "This is not an issue of Powercor not performing maintenance. It's a case of of Powercor skimping on infrastructure investment."
Investment = money = less to the investor, thus the less maintanence done, the less money spent :(
Underground, a FANTASTIC IDEA, but if you can;t build an underground link from Brusnwick to Richmond without years of wrangling, what hope have you got in open 'virgin' bush and scrubland. The hard-core greenies would not allow it!

Andrew said...

Oh, this one is nasty and almost falls into a category of blackmail. Remember that power is very expensive for the companies to buy on very hot days too. They would make a huge saving.

It ain't so (most of the time) said...

Andrew, not only blackmail but like you said the cost of power in peak times is high, and the network can;t cope with the supply required - that's why this comment "let’s just turn the power off and we can reduce electricity load AND reduce our liability." was made. If they can just cut the power to say 100,000 homes, they have reduced or perhaps even stopped the need the load shedding (the emergency cutting of power)

Blackmail or not - they would be criminals and I'd be quite happy, along with many 1000's of other business people to take them to task over this.
Lives and livliehoods are at stake.

Dragonsally said...

I am aghast at Powercor. Actually, this makes me feel physically ill thinking of the repercussion if they went ahead with the threat.

It ain't so (most of the time) said...

I can't believe they are actually considering something like. I did read 2-3 months ago that THIS MAY be occurring, but I thought it was someone's idea of joke.
How wrong was I - I hope the Government and the fire fighting agencies and even the Health Agencies STOP IT before it even becomes a nugget of occurring, because if it happens, people WILL DIE :(
Either from heat or from the inability to make decisions, based on information that is ONLY available when the power is connected :(