Wednesday, July 4, 2007

How does one cope with daily rolling blackouts?

Two weeks ago, Nicaragua passed an infamous record: the largest one-day shortage of electricity in its history. Three of its plants went down reducing the electricity capacity by 174 MW (with average daily demand at 480 MW, that’s a little over a third of the demand). With neighbours in Costa Rica having similar problems and Panama and Guatemala who typically have excess capacity not able to lend a helping hand, this has resulted in rolling blackouts throughout neighbourhoods in Nicaragua for up to 10-12 hours per day.

Unfortunately, this was not just a one-day occurrence. The Ortega government was elected on three principal platforms: (1) peace and reconciliation from the 1980’s contra wars; (2) solving the growing poverty and inequality problem in Nicaragua; (3) solving the electricity and water shortages that have plagued recent governments.

Unfortunately, it has been unsuccessful in most of its efforts resulting in the government’s popularity to plunge in four short months from +60% approval to -10% disapproval.
However, one may wonder how one survives in a black-out prone country. For example, what happens to food in fridges (or in supermarkets) when the fridges don’t work on a consistent basis (especially in tropical weather like here)? How does one work especially in this day and age of electronic communication and information gathering as well as a dependence on computers to complete most work? How can one sleep, cook and eat when microwaves, electricity appliances, often water (because it relies on electric pumps) and without fans or air conditioning? The answers to these fascinating questions I have to live with everyday… but then again, I’m gone at the end of July. What saddens me is that there seems to be no end in sight to bad infrastructures, name-calling by private electricity companies and the government and short-term solutions to the detriment to long-term thinking and envisioning.

1 comment:

ourman said...

What amazes me is that we have seen Ortega traveling the globe and begging for oil and generators and, it appears, having at least some success.

In other words, it may be too late but he is doing something?

But how did his predecessors allow this to happen? Ortega may be failing to address the problem but he isn't the one who caused.

In particular he's left with the Union Fenosa who was installed by the neo liberals of the World Bank. Provision has plummeted and prices have risen.

It's fair to say, that Ortega is yet to solve the problem, but it should be also pointed out that he is making some attempt which is more than his predecessors who caused this problem did.