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.

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