Tuesday, July 24, 2007

The Barcelona blackout means that if a) you live in Barcelona b) you do business with a company in Barcelona c) you are coming to Barcelona, then you are most likely d) screwed.

TV3 is reporting that some 70,000 clients are still without electric power, and 30,000 of them will not have service until tomorrow at the earliest. 10,000 clients got their electricity back this morning. Some of the traffic lights, for example at Calle Mallorca and Paseo Sant Joan, are still out.

Here in Gracia electric power is still hit-and-miss. My building has power; we were only down for about three hours yesterday. Last night the streetlights on my street were on, but on the other side of Calle Escorial they were out. The fruit shop, the Pakistani grocery, and the Bar Zeus still don't have the electricity back on. The main market in Gracia down on the Traversera is still down, and they've had to throw away enormous amounts of food.

Supposedly they had pot-banging protests (caceroladas) against the power outage in several Barcelona neighborhoods last night, but I didn't hear anything. Spaniards love demonstrations. I can't imagine protesting against a power outage, though. I mean, we're all against them, and we all want the electricity to come back on, so exactly what good does banging your pots and pans do?

Fortunately, there were no serious incidents last night, no accidents, crime, or looting.

People are blaming the power companies, which I suppose makes some sense, but many of them have their targets wrong. Fecsa-Endesa is Barcelona's shareholder-owned retail power company, and the outage is not their fault. It was a Red Electrica Española cable that went down; REE is the state-owned company that runs the electrical grid and distributes wholesale electric power to the retailers.

REE's delegate in Catalonia, Lluís Pinós, said that the electrical grid had been affected by two recent accidents related to construction work going on. I'm not sure whether that's a legitimate explanation or just an excuse. We'll see.

Mayor Jordi Hereu demanded that REE get the power back on before tonight. Mr. Hereu, what good is that going to do? We assume they are working as fast as they can, and if they can't work any faster, why are you demanding they do so? Aren't you demanding something impossible, playing to the peanut gallery, just to look as if you had some control over what's going on?

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