The explanation given for Tuesday's massive power blackout in the South raises more questions than it answers.
Any national grid should have enough redundancy built in to enable rerouting of supplies in the event of a maintenance shutdown, a lightning strike, or both. This ensures that if a blackout or load reduction cannot be avoided, it can at least be localised. If the damage is catastrophic, then a targeted series of rolling blackouts can be ordered to minimise hardship, unnecessary suffering and economic loss. So why did none of this happen?
The answer is one we have heard before, especially when state enterprises are involved, and makes a strong case for privatisation. While there are contingency plans designed to handle such situations, no one in authority was prepared to take responsibility for authorising their use. Incredible as it may seem, no one at the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand or the Provincial Electricity Authority dared to show initiative and begin the necessary emergency power redistribution. Instead, the buck was passed to the Energy Regulatory Commission which monitors market conditions, pricing and dispute settlement. As a result, 14 southern provinces and the business and tourism hubs of Songkhla, Phuket and Surat Thani suffered the worst power outage since 1978.
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