Friday, April 30, 2010

Electricity on a Sliding Fee Scale

Some areas of Santo Domingo (areas where I hope to stay) have only periodic brown outs (very periodic, meaning every day - sometimes for minutes, sometimes for hours). Other areas, the most impoverished, have electricity only a few hours per day. Water service is the same. And since power is usually required to pump the water into your tank, it is not uncommon to have neither. (Someday I'll write about ways to addresss these issues.)

So there is a bit of a Catch 22. People who pay for electricity get frustrated because they are paying for very poor service. People who don't pay are blamed for draining the system and not allowing the electric companies to make a profit and provide better service. Because of poor service (meaning lack of service) more and more people don't pay. When I say don't pay, I don't mean what you think. Because in the US, if you don't pay you lose your service. I mean steal.

How do you steal electricity? Just grab a wire and hook into the power line. As easy as that. Of course it is not as easy as that. They have to know how, or pay someone who knows how. And they have to bribe the electric company employees who come disconnect the hijacked wires to hook it back up again or overlook it. So they really are paying for electricity after all - they're just not paying the power company, which (supposedly) if was being paid for all the electricity it provided would no longer have brown (black) outs. Except members of a government committee created to decrease the number of black outs were just arrested for embezzlement.

I want to make clear here that people at many economic levels "borrow" electricity - it is not just in the poorer areas. And since those areas have so little power provided to them anyway, I suppose they steal the least!

There does seem to be a bit of a sliding fee scale. One price per kilowatt if you only use a certain low amount of electricity per month, and a much higher price per kilowatt once you go over that limit. So blackouts are an effective cost saving method. And I suppose a way that the electric company shoots itself in the foot. More consistent electricity certainly would provide more income, even if some people do steal it.

On the flip side - there have been times that too much power comes through the system. I’ve had a ceiling fan go so fast that it whips grimy dustballs from the top of its blades all over the room, and I think the fan might take flight or at the very least fall out of the ceiling. I began to realize this created some risk for my computer equipment. These are not just quick surges that a surge protector might cancel out, but 15 minutes to hours. If the fan is not running, I've learned to identify them by the smell of burning rubber - perhaps the plastic of things plugged into the outlets. When I smell burning, it is a strong suggestion to turn of the computer and start unplugging things. If only the power could be evened out...

"Is it true that you are going to increase the electricity bills of everyone?"
"No! Only for those who pay."

Heather J. Kirk, Photographer, Author, Graphic Designer "We...a spirit seeking harmony for a world that's out of sync" - purchase an e-book at: Find her art at: Fine Art America and

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