A building frustration with a basic service

The Courier predicted several weeks ago there were likely to be some angry residents around the region when the weather heated up and the electricity system started to fail.  Those numbers seem only to have grown with the latest outages.

On one hand air conditioning and other cooling devices, the very things which trip the system, are now almost the things we now cannot live without. The outages were particulalrly worrying, not because they came at the end of several days of sweltering weather but that they occurred on a Sunday when industrial use of power is normally at a low. 

If the incidents which reached from Neerina to the Mornington Peninsula are an indicator it is how this domestic use is now driving some of the peak demand. In a warming world where there is the possibility of more such heatwaves; these system failures could result in a lot more than discomfort.  

Despite some premature commentary that this was due to insufficient power creation, the Australia's Energy Market Operator made it clear quickly the issue was in the network. Energy Networks Australia said this failure occurred at a range of local infrastructure where substations tripped.

But explanations do little to placate the misery, least of all when it is so common. According to the Australian Energy Market Commission, 90 per cent of all power failures between 2005 and 2010 were a failure of distribution while lack of capacity cause just 1.2 per cent of blackouts. So the closure of Hazelwood or the promise of a dozen new renewable power generators are not the issue if the network which is acting as the main vehicle for this power cannot cope. 

Enterprising individuals are looking for ways to potentially create their own back up power sources, reducing power use or even being less reliant on power sources during heatwaves whether through house design or other alternatives but the bulk of people these are not yet viable options. Moreover having paid heavily in past years, through escalating power bills which was supposed to be channelled back into reinvestment in the wires and pole infrastructure, these failures are additionally infuriating.

The Premier has called it frustrating and wants to know where the money was spent. Blacked out householders may agree with the sentiment but likely care little for the reasoning.  They just want the system they paid for to work.