When We Lose Electric Power Service
The case for distributed power production just got a whole lot stronger.
We lost power last night. It started in the afternoon and that seemed innocent enough. We’ve seen blackouts before. Usually, they’d only last a couple of minutes or hours and then they’d be done. We’d be back in business with the refrigerator, the AC, and all the electronics. But today, we’re waiting extra long. First, they said it’d be fixed by 2 pm. Then, just as that time was approaching, I got a text indicating that power would not be restored until 2 am the next day. This was going to be a long night. We were without power for 7 hours.
We were fine for most of the afternoon. We don’t mind the heat so much, we let the inside temps climb to 78 in the summer. I shave my head, so heat transfer is not a problem for me. My wife and my girls, however, have full heads of thick, beautiful hair. It was not so easy for them.
I have seen how different power companies manage their infrastructure. I spent most of my adult life in Southern California, with service from Southern California Edison. Even during that bout with ridiculous power crises created by “the smartest guys in the room” at Enron, I didn’t see any power outages. In all of my time in Southern California, I can only recall maybe 4or 5 service interruptions over the span of 40 years.
Here in Utah, I’m served by Rocky Mountain Power. They must be really cheap with their infrastructure. Little redundancy, higher rates than California, too. Some idiot digs in the wrong place, boom, power goes out. Yesterday, a transformer blew up. I’m guessing they were working with a really cheap box. RMP has a big investor, Berkshire Hathaway. BH is pushing for higher rates and lower pay for net metering. It’s totally one-sided.
I think we have 3–4 outages every year. Most are very short-lived and get back on track right away, or we don’t notice it. Every once in a while, we have something that lasts long enough to make us uncomfortable. I think the trend is that these service interruptions are going to get worse. Revenue is going to decline with people being unable to pay their bills. There will be greater attrition due to the pandemic and just the fact that the best guys are getting older. And they’re cheap. They’re probably not paying top dollar for their labor or their training or their hardware. Compared to SCE, RMP is run by amateurs.