Power Outages Wouldn’t Be So Common in a First-World State


Is there anything more frustrating than watching elected officials complaining about poor services when their own actions were among the causes?

Power outages, which hit a 10-year high in Rhode Island last year, now have the attention of local lawmakers.

One is calling for underground power lines in certain impacted areas, while another wants more reliable service in exchange for Rhode Islanders paying “one of the highest” electricity rates in the country. …

State Rep. Katherine Kazarian, D-East Providence, cited four outages over the past eight months in her district as one of the reasons she is calling on National Grid to address ratepayers’ concerns. …

State Rep. Joseph Solomon Jr., D-Warwick, has proposed a bill that would force the utility to bury lines in any area that loses power for 96 straight hours or more within two years of the outage. …

“We are already paying for this service,” Kazarian said. “We need to make sure we’re getting what we pay for.”

To the contrary, what we’re paying for is expensive off-shore wind and other “green” projects.  We’re also paying for the NIMBYism of people who don’t want any power-generation going on anywhere near them, as well as protected labor.

There’s simply a set of hard economic facts, although they’re moving targets.  There is a price that people will tolerate for electricity.  There is a cost to provide that electricity, given the current reality.  There is a profit/income/wage at which people will be willing to do the work of making the system function rather than doing something else with their lives.

This recognition that facts are facts and people are people may be the biggest gap in the progressive approach, which always seems to imply that somebody, somewhere is messing up a perfectly designed system and just needs to be found and forced to comply.


As legislators and administrators drive up the cost of providing electricity, the price that people will tolerate does not go up, so the gap has to be made up somewhere.  Labor is an obvious first place to look for savings, but then other jobs begin to look more attractive, or employees form a union to put up a political firewall.  Next come more-speculative investments in development.  Then more-concrete investments to anticipate future needs.  Finally, maintenance starts to go out the window.

Why do we not have underground utilities?  Because there isn’t enough space between the price we’re willing to pay for electricity and the cost to provide it. As Kazarian indicates, we all feel like we’re already paying for this service… and we are, but what we’re actually getting is fashionable green energy, a unionized labor premium, and a landscape with limited energy production.

The first step to fixing this problem is to be honest about it.  Until we’re willing to do that, the outages will continue, and the haves will continue to invest in very non-green personal household generators.

  • Rhett Hardwick

    Here is something I found interesting. Recently NG began replacing poles on property adjoining mine. While speaking with the guys, I found that NG buries almost all of their lines in Europe. Must be a reason for that. Some years ago, I lived in Brookline, MA. The town did not permit poles (some of the older areas predated the controlling ordinance). I presume the power lines were buried. Few modern developments permit poles. However, having created the pole infrastructure, I imagine the cost of burial would be a significant burden.

  • Guestr

    Justin you surprised me with this topic comment and all most hit the nail on the head and I must congratulate both you and Rhett Hardwick for bring forth some very interesting points.

    May I gently remind you on one comment you made and I quote you; “Rhode Islanders paying “one of the highest” electricity rates in the country.” This is true according to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), Energy Information Administration (EIA) most current posting on monthly statists for the lower 48 states as of September 2020 Rhode Island was 21.98 cents/kWh highest price in New England however, Hawaii has the highest electric rates in the nation at 29.99 cents/kWh (used to be 37.34 cents/kWh) and Alaska is at 23.49 cents/kWh.

    Why is Rhode Island so high in electric rates?? Consider the NIMBYism of people who don’t want any power-generation going on anywhere near them as National Grid imports all Rhode Island power from other states.

    Hawaii pays the high price due to all the power plants on all the islands are imported oil carbon fuel based with one coal power plant as Hawaii has no natural oil, natural gas or coal so all fuels must be shipped from the mainland however all is changing with Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative mandate to be 100% renewable energy by year 2045, at end of year 2020 all Hawaii Islands will be at 40% across the board with some islands at 50% and 60% renewable green energy powered for electricity (year 2008 Hawaii was 95% powered by imported oil and some coal plus 5% powered by geothermal from volcano) which has driven our electric rates down with firm fixed consistent power costs. There are no expensive offshore wind farms in Hawaii.

    Rhett Hardwick brings out a great point that the power line in Europe are buried, but European nations are experiencing constant power outages due to fact there is too much fluctuating offshore wind farm electricity on the grids and they decommissioned all their old coal power plants and now scrambling to rebuild them to stabilize the offshore fluctuating wind turbine power.

    Rhode Island got burnt once by the last governor with Deepwater Wind offshore 30 MW “name plate” (Block Island max power use in summer is 11 MW during summer and EPA and DOE indicates in order to get average usable power from a “name plate” wind turbine output calculate 34.98% (0.3498) of “name plate”) 5 turbine wind farm that is not directly powering Block Island. That is why Block Islanders got a 40% rate decrease and do not pay the surcharge mainland cities and towns do. The fluctuating power is sent to Narraganset National Grid trunk line to be mixed with regular “Baseline Power” while regular baseline stable power is sent to Block Island on the so called “backup cable.”

    Of Note; most don’t know this or have forgotten but Block Island Power Company was under Boston Federal Court order via EPA to remove the 8 illegally installed diesel generators and install an undersea cable from mainland and also ordered to remove underground fuel storage tanks. Block Island population rejected the cost of undersea cable so guess who is paying for Block Island undersea powe cable??

    On my side of Honolulu, HI all our power lines are underground, and we still have power outtages due to something happening on the other side of the island. Putting all the power lines under ground will not elevate National Grids power outages in Rhode Island especially when all power is created out of state.

    Rhode Island needs to keep politicians out of trying to solve utility resource problems.

    Case in Point; Governor Gina Raimondo wrote an executive order mandating Rhode Island get all its electric power from renewable green energy resources by year 2030 making Rhode Island first state in nation to do so. Her energy commissioner Nicholas Ucci which she appointed indicates it can be done with what is currently generated in the state and purchasing 400 MW and 600 MW “name plate” offshore wind farm power.

    The question is are they looking at the total 1,000 MW “name plate” power to power the whole state which would be near reasonable or are they looking at DOE, EPA average usable power from the 1,000 MW “name plate” power which would be 34.98% or 349.8 MW usable average power which would need carbon based fuel powered power plant to stabilize it into baseline dispatchable power for direct ratepayer use.

    I’ll say it one more time, Rhode Island has to find a way to keep politicians out of trying to mandate ho utilities operate.

    This is why the Deepwater Wind and National Grid power purchase price I so high at 24.4 cents/kWh with 3.5% compounding COLD over 20 years driving electric rate up to near 50 cents/kWh the Rhode Island 38 cities and towns must pay surcharge while Block Island gets a 40% reduction in rates.

    Currently in the world, there are only 3 renewable energy systems connected to electric power utility grids providing direct “dispatchable baseline” electric power 24/7 operating just like a carbon based fuel thermally powering a standard electric power generating power plant that can ramp up/down with changing line loads resistive and inductive maintaining electric voltage, amperage and frequency within UL and NFPA electric code requirements 24/7.

    2 were conceived, designed, build, validated proof of concept, and fully built out and connected to the commercial utility power grid supplying electric power in the United States in Hawaii and 1 likewise in Australia. All 3 are using applications of different renewable energy systems technology but 2 derive their power from the ocean and 1 from solar photovoltaic energy. All three are low profile blend in to landscape systems so you would never know they are there.

    The only commercial power output Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC) power plant in the world has been operating continuously 24/7 supplying campus wide power to the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii Authority (NELHA) and as a test stand build-in for world-wide countries to test their heat exchangers for efficiency. OTEC gets its power from the difference between warm surface ocean water and deep ocean cold water to drive a steam generator. It is 95% efficient and totally self-sustainable with additional solar photovoltaic and storage battery to compensate for the lost 5%. Can be ocean-based floating of land based, close loop or open loop design: http://nelha.hawaii.gov/

    Actually, two independent renewable energy systems with latter built upon the first. Kauai Island Electric Cooperative (KIUC), AES Distributed Energy (DE) Company, DOE, Natural Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and U.S. Navy first in the world Solar Photovoltaic (PV) Peaker Power Plant with Battery Energy Storage System (BESS) providing direct dispatchable “baseline” AC power 24/7 to the commercial utility power grid. Second system developed for U.S. Navy provided built-in microgrid so during power outages the U.S. Navy could continue to operate 24/7 under its own power: https://aesdistributedenergy.com/

    Carnegie Clean Energy Company of Australia developed their CETO wave kinetic energy power system that uses the wave action to develop high pressure to power to drive an electric generator plus drive an ocean seawater water distillation producing clean drinking water. They have developed an ocean-based unit and a land-based unit. Their kinetic energy drive system sits just below the water surface so you don’t know it there. Their CETO power system with distillation has been providing dispatchable “baseline power” and distilled drinking water to Australia’s largest Navy base for 10 years: https://www.carnegiece.com/

    Finally, you do not need to purchase a carbon-based emergency power generator anymore. You can get a full solar emergency power backup system for as low as $1,600 that can be recharged by electric power plug, auto 12V power receptable or solar panels and get up to 66 hours of light bulb use at night via 3 electric built-in outlets, USB ports and 12V port: https://www.jackery.com/