Thursday, 13 May 2010

Power Cuts ... but No Strikes

The cost to the economy of the recent power cuts must have been enormous.  All the private sector, that is so reliant on electrical power to make money, out of action for several hours;  before anyone comments so what, think about it, salaries and expenses have to be paid without any ability to earn the income or to replace it as lost hours are gone for ever.

The reason: a technical failure in a cable.  The question: why are there no back up systems?  I don't ask it for any technical explanations, as to why it cannot be, but rather with a view to a solution because the private sector, that supports all the public sector, simply cannot afford to come to a grinding halt.

It seems to me that having a monopoly supplier of electricity (and water but let us leave that one to one side) is not of benefit to consumers in any market. Let us not go into that argument.  Let us assume that it is absolutely necessary in such a small territory to allow that monopoly.

What about making arrangements to have a supply of electricity from Spain?  OK, OK, lets all scream from the hymn sheet ... we cannot rely on Spain for our essential services.   Let us forget, for one moment, that in fact the fuel to run our essential services is imported from Spain, so we are dependant on Spain anyway.  Let us forget that, if Spain becomes hostile, we get left without much of an economy. A large proportion of  Gibraltar's economy is reliant on cross-frontier access.  Let us accept the political argument and imperative that we need to be self sufficient in the provision of essential services.

Why, I ask myself, cannot Gibraltar have its brand  spanking new power station and, in addition, connect to the Spanish electricity supply grid?  Would this not mean that Gibraltar can sell to Spain, when Gibraltar has spare capacity and buy from Spain as and when need arises or circumstances require? And, possibly, I do not know, electricity might be cheaper in Gibraltar as a result. Then, if there is ever a problem with our power station, our economy can continue to function because we have an alternative electricity supply. I understand that this type of arrangement is very common in the EU.


  1. I would simply comment on your last line "I understand that this type of arrangement is very common in Spain".
    Free and easy access at national borders in the E.U. is covered by Law. In theory even a hostile Spain should not hinder easy cross-frontier access, yet our Government puts up with it. They pretend otherwise, and mislead the people. We got the vote in court we can get the required access too.

  2. Hi Rockscorpian;

    My last line is " ... in the EU" not " ... in Spain" as you misquote it.

  3. LW- What you suggest makes good business sense. If Government wanted something of a practical and positive nature to discuss at the next Tripartite meet then here is a topic staring at them in the face.

    In this day and age, in a territory the size of Gib, I find it incredible that a power cut the size and length of which we experienced a few weeks back was met with a collective shrug of the shoulders because "accidents will happen".

    The large online gaming companies will no doubt have their own backup generators as will essential establishments like the hospital. However, private individuals and enterprises can take only limited precautions to safeguard their power supplies. For many, having back up electrical generators is unfeasible, undesirable or just down right dangerous to have around.

    Many private companies' business plans rely on having an uninterrupted power supply. Having a second back up grid, as well as being connected to our neighbours, would help in this regard. I accept that the laying down of a back up grid would be expensive, cost several millions and the creation of numerous further trenches in our roads but then this doesn't seem to have stopped other public projects recently!

  4. Can we also have an alternative oxygen supply from Spain?

  5. Campana y se acabo!
    What about butchers, bakers and candle-stick makers? Those of us old enough to remember, have all rolled over this hot potato before.
    Prefiero hacer tortillas de patatas en casa y no que me las traigan de Mercadona ya hechas! Let me manage my own ingredients. As a dyed-in-the-wool Yanito, I have become a bit of a control freak over how my "bits" are managed. Rather not have either "Colonial Power" dandole vueltas a mi tortilla. I know how i like them!

  6. Plenty of redundancies instead.

  7. Elio says...

    Good idea LW, we could "throw a cable" as we say in Gib, to the Spainsh grid and take power from them. It would surely be cheaper and there would no longer be a need for the unwanted power station at Lathbury.

  8. Anon 23.13- The refinery does its best during the night hours... Have a sniff when there is a north westerly blowing.

  9. I would fully support to echale un cable a Espain instead of another eyesore in the Latbury Barracks area.

  10. Ghost says:

    Robert, you make an excellent point here!!! There is no question that tapping into the European grid, via Spain is a most worthy option. Gibcrier makes an even better suggestion (although maybe harder to sell to Llanitos) of forgetting our own plans to build a new power plant altogether. Do you think this is an issue the GOG have not considered because they do not believe they would secure a large enough mandate to pursue? I agree that's Spains hostiity could shut us down regardless of our own power plant and given your views on this, therefore assume that you believe we are now in a far stronger position to stand our ground and seek things which in the past may not have been an option.

  11. Fred:

    Those suggesting a cable to the European grid are right to do so. However, I hope that those making the proposal are thinking of the good of the whole of Gibraltar, and not just their properties in the South District.

    In any case, we would need both. There is no substitute to being able to generate one's own power.

    As an aside I should mention that I am for reducing energy consumption from non-renewable sources, and that includes an end to our obsession with cars.

  12. The blog does not suggest otherwise than keeping our own generating capacity. Although I would tend to agree with those who feel that we should simply connect to the grid in Spain. I think that this is not considered by those who face election becausef the likely unpopularity of the suggestion despite that it makes all sense financially. Not making a sensible decision to avoid redundancy is not an argument against doing what is sensible.

  13. Power strikes....but plenty of redundancies instead!

  14. El Minister for Pending should take care of all these matters.

    We should all vote for Talk about Town as the best ever Opposition in Gibraltar.....constructive criticisms spiced with a healthy measure of good humour and savvy!

  15. Just throwing this out there as food for thought.

    Would we really want to be exclusively dependent on Spain for the supply of electricity? What happens when relations take a bad turn (as they often do) and Spain uses effective control of our supply as leverage against us?

  16. "LA FALANGE (FE) entiende que España debe acometer una política de afirmación de su soberanía que la coloque en un puesto preeminente entre las naciones. Esta política tendrá las siguientes bases.

    a) Entendemos que España es una realidad mutilada mientras no se recupere la soberanía de Gibraltar perdida con la instauración de la casa Borbón en el trono de España. La reivindicación de Gibraltar debe ser una constante en la política española. Para ello, además de la reivindicación, será necesaria una política activa a todos los niveles, proscribiendo del lenguaje todo aquello que sirve para justificar una situación insostenible."


    a) It is either the sword of damocles,

    b) The poisoned chalice, or

    c) A combination of both.


  17. Good point Calpetano.

  18. Ghost says:
    Was it not Moratinos that said "senores estamos en el siglo XXI" quite forcefully as I recall it and with a great deal of sincerity and convictio!......of course we should never lower our gaurd, but i think its fair to say that our position with regards to our ability to defend ourselves from Spain is somewhat more weighted that it was 5 / 10 / 15 or more years ago. Should we not move forward cautiously whilst also confident in our ability to defend our rightful position on any issue? Does the fact that we have Cordoba (like it or not a move forward from anything previous), that we have taken Spain to court in Europe on regional selectivity and won, that we are now in court proceedings with regard to the waters dispute and that we are doing all of this maturely as any other mature, democratic nation would do? Can we please move on from swords and chalices and dare I say it have the confidence in our ability as an intelligent community that we are and have proven to be.
    We are self sufficient with a growing economy, have full support from Britain and have negotiated Spain down to a level where a Spanish Foreign minister openly (on our soil) and to a Spanish journalist highlights that we are now in the 21st century, and that things are no longer what they were with regards to political relationships.....come on people, can we move on from our insecurities and believe in ourselves and what can be done, just a little more!

  19. What is your position going to be when the PSOE goes Ghost?

    Explain exactly what is it that you, or those you advocate for, are imploring all of us to do now when you cry out "come on people, can we move on...and believe in ... what can be done, just a little more!"

    We all eagerly await your full answer to these two questions - without insecurities and with full belief!

  20. Fred says:


    I think that you should follow Spanish politics a bit more closely. You underestimate the Spanish Right - ask Judge Baltasar Garzon.

    I agree with your sentiments, but until such time as Spain overcomes its historic ghosts and we see an end to left and right and "la Espanya Balkanica" then we will always have to be on our guard, much as one would want it to be otherwise. It is a simple case of understanding political risk.

    Spain is about to go through an even rougher economic patch that will only strengthen the right-wingers.

    The same right-wingers that would be Mr Caruana's natural political allies in any other situation.

  21. Ghost says:
    wow with this is public opinion we are doomed.......we may as well close the frontier ourselves...;) seriously though, I appreciate your concerns not least with the PP innuendo, but do you not accept that we have moved on and that we truly have had success in our own right and with our own voice - you will recall Spains and Britains last bash at bullying us (under a PP Govt I might add), as I recall Peter Hayne ended up getting the post if Welsh Minister (no disrespect to the Welsh). We have taken Spain to court and won on the issue of regional selectivity, we are in court proceedings with regard to the waters issue; my point being we seem to be holding our own pretty well and doing so like any other nation that has issues with it's neighbours. You are right to throw caution, our gaurd should not be lowered, but lets face the issues realistically and not allow ourselves to fall into the same old fear trap that some would prefer we fell into. I'll wrap thus up with an FDR quote; "the only thing we have to fear, is fear itself" so in answer to Anonymous 14:25, let's stop those who's only aim is to make us believe that we should be afraid, because this suits only their self interest, and use what has indeed been gained, to continue with what surely no one can deny is the stronger position that we currently enjoy.
    So I'm off now, my wife is watching CSI and clearly fine tuning her knowledge on how to get rid of me and make it look like an accident...;)
    good weekend.

  22. I have little fear and insecurities over Spain or its politics - know both very well having lived in Madrid and Andalucia for over a is those in Gibraltar that underestimate the long hand of Spanish right-wing politics and aristocracy that is quite concerning and almost naive.

    Fred is right Ghost and so far it has not been a very difficult ride because the socialists have been in power.