Friday, June 23, 2006

Economics of power outages

Last night, about half an hour after I got home and was settling in to enjoy the newly-returned internet service, the power went out. And stayed out for five hours. Why does God not want me to use my computer? Anyway, for fun in the dark we helped look for a neighbor's escaped cat, went to our favorite cheap place to eat (we have a gas stove but it's dangerous to cook in the dark!) and eventually went to Target to get a second flashlight. Of course, by the time we came back from Target the power was on, but it's still a good thing to have.

Boyfriend commented that we should call up the electric company and ask for money off our bill for the trouble, like he did with the cable company (we should get a week comped.) However, the trick is that since we get charged by how much we use, if we don't use anything, then we don't pay anything. So really, the longer the power is out, the lower our bill is anyway. It's not costing the power company anything but our goodwill if they take a long time to restore power. And since they're the cheapest game in town, nobody's going to switch unless they're really pissed off, and in the future they'll still have to wait for them to fix the lines since this company owns all of them.

I think we were still probably better off in our overheated apartment than the guy whose brand new truck got crushed by a giant fallen tree down the street. yuck.

The other thing we noted is that while the radio and the reporting line at the electric company said there were massive outages in the city and many of the suburbs, guess who got fixed first? The most expensive suburbs. Now thinking about this, I think this makes economic sense for the power company. It's a hot night (although it rained so not as hot as it could have been) and people want to use their air conditioners and turn on all their lights. The suburbs around here are full of M/I and Toll Brothers giant-house subdivisions, which must cost a fortune to cool and light, and whatever else faux rich people do in their giant houses. So it's really to the power company's best interest to restore power first to the people who are going to use the most electricity, and who have enough money to vote with their feet if they get angry enough at the current company. In our case, the power was only out on our half of our block of our street, probably due to the downed tree, so we were low priority. I wonder if the time disparity would have been much greater if there were more severe damage out in the suburbs, since they often fix whatever problems are easiest in order to reduce the actual number of people without power.


Brad said...

The folks that should be put back in service first are those with medical need, i.e. those on respirators, or dependent on other medical devices. That is what I have always known to be the case locally.

Kira said...

When I called to report the power outage, the recording said that there were more than 18,000 customers without power - and since a customer is generally an address, probably a lot more people than that. I know they have emergency services for people who need electricity for medical services, but I don't think that everybody in the rich suburbs has got an old aunt on a respirator. =)