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Saturday, January 13, 2007

Once Again, Ameren Plunges St. Louis Into Darkness

Over 120,000 AmerenUE customers already have lost power due to the overnight ice storm. With the storm expected to continue and worsen tonight and tomorrow, that number could exceed the number of outages during the last ice storm in November and the severe storm in July.

After the past two massive storm outages, Ameren has arrogantly gone forward to pursue its rate increase. Then, this week, they received an award for preparedness from the Edison Electric Institute, an association of publicly traded companies (surprise, huh?). Meanwhile, it seems that their lines are no more stable than before the summer storms that alerted this region that our electric utility had put profit ahead of preparedness.

Obviously, we all need to kick our fossil fuel habits. We all need to think about ways to conserve energy. To avert a global tragedy, we need to rethink what we consider necessary.

Still, AmerenUE's terrible performance is about to plunge the region into its biggest blackout in decades -- in the middle of severe cold weather. For millions of human beings, and for a metropolitan area trying to redeem its national reputation, this is unacceptable. For the employees of the company, it's unjust -- should they expect to work grueling marathon shifts several times a year just because their bosses won't spend money on storm-proofing the system?

Then again, when something like basic electric service is a publicly-traded commodity, the only customers who count are stockholders.

8 comments:

Claire Nowak-Boyd said...

How much do you want to bet they will claim it is the worst storm in their 100 year history? That's what they said the last two times, even though there's been tornadoes and everything in that history. Geez.

"A 3 year old boy blew out his birthday candles, knocking out power to 100,000 people in North County and on the East Side for eight days. It was the worst storm in our company's 100 year history!"

Anonymous said...

Challenge: Mayor Slay, grow some nutts and force Ameren to bury power lines in the city!!!

Matt B. said...

Get over it.

A major winter storm is going to knock down power lines no matter what Ameren does, save deforesting the entire city. No thanks.

Did you see the pictures from Denver? metal towers with high tension lines collapsed under ice with no trees in sight

I spent the night in Ballwin and was woken up at 6am by a series of transformer explosions, and a powerless house. The power was on six hours later.

And the dream of burying power lines is just that. There are at least 3000 miles of lines in the city (1,100 miles of city streets, 600 miles of allys, and connections running to every house). You're not talking millions of dollars, but billions, yet you don't want your rates to go up?

I'll keep my tree lined streets and a reasonable electric bill.

Anonymous said...

The last poster is a bit reactionary.

This post doesn't advocate deforestation.

The point is what gets neglected under a profit-driven model of utility service.

The power in Ballwin may be back in six hours, but try Jennings next time and it may take ten days. Six hours of outtage there can happen on a clear day!

Ameren's infrastructure is f'ed up, and they don't care. Our elected officials are chickenshit or on the take (remember Slay's abrupt July opinion reversal?).

There's no reason why we can't have a reasonable rate increase and better service. Ameren needs to cut its profit margin and invest in its infrastructure.

Many people would support a rate increase if it was for improving service.

No one will support an increase now unless Ameren makes a compelling case for it. That hasn't happened!

Then again, maybe we should all kick back and keep quiet. We need money to go into Steffen's TIFs instead of real public works.

Anonymous said...

If you're experiencing power stability issues, consider moving downtown where many lines are buried. I don't recall any flicker for years. Sweet, sweet electricity keeping me warm and the Internet moving.

*ducks*

Anonymous said...

Perhaps a public good should be owned by the public...

Anonymous said...

Look lets be frank here Ameren wants a rate increase and that is fine.

The trade off is a follows:

Ameren wants a rate increase. St. Louisians want the power lines burried to solve the constant outages problem (not the hack away nice trees method of prevention that Ameren supports). Then lets pass an increase large enough that we can force Ameren to bury the lines. It is pretty simple. Everyone gets what they want.

People get power
Ameren gets money...

Anonymous said...

Look lets be frank here Ameren wants a rate increase and that is fine.

The trade off is a follows:

Ameren wants a rate increase. St. Louisians want the power lines burried to solve the constant outages problem (not the hack away nice trees method of prevention that Ameren supports). Then lets pass an increase large enough that we can force Ameren to bury the lines. It is pretty simple. Everyone gets what they want.

People get power
Ameren gets money...