The recent wave of power cuts in Jakarta, Indonesia have got people thinking about safety in the house, sex and PLN, the state-owned power monopoly which still cannot see the light and provide enough power.
But it’s the same in lots of countries. We can get to the moon, spend billions on wars, in Afghanistan and Iraq and send big delegations to Copenhagen to agree not to save the world until next year, but we can`t keep the lights on. It`s all very well talking about clean energy when lots of people don’t have any at all!
The power utilities can´t keep up with demand. There´s not enough new power stations or the transmission system is hopeless.
PLN in Indonesia is just completing the financing of a 10,000 megawatt (MW) crash program to make 30 coal-fired power stations that started in 2006 but won´t finish until 2011.
The next lot of Indonesian power stations will be geothermal (48 percent), hydro-electric (12 percent), gas-fired (14 percent) and coal-fired (26 percent). (The Jakarta Post, 09.12.09).
But the geothermal ones could cost about US$14.2 billion and take six years to build, so the whole program needs $20 billion. Who is going to put up all this investment and the technology needed?
And what are we going to do while we wait for more power? Especially with power cuts in the middle of the night.
My family in Jakarta sleep rolling all over the floor so when I look for the candles I fall all over them. Then I sit and think what to do next.
The alternatives are reading by candlelight, sex and thinking about how to solve the power crisis. Its not very good for your eyes reading by candlelight, unless you have a candelabra, which is more romantic.
Which brings us to sex. Research shows that power cuts result in higher birth rates, so they can be fun and you can just be grateful for them.
But you can´t generate electricity from sex except the tingly sort that flows between people´s finger tips when they are made for each other.
So what we can do to generate our own power, as this problem happens all over the world?
One idea would be to wire up ten houses around you and everyone produce a little bit of electricity a different way and then pool it.
In France at the time of King Louis I4th people tried flying kites to capture lightning. This is less reliable than the power utility and a bit dangerous.
More reliably you could install tiny pico-hydro turbines in your drainpipes (they are made in Vietnam). You could wait for it to rain hard, or get the maid, driver or family members to hand-pump the water up one drain pipe and drop it down another. This would keep people fit and power two light bulbs.
We could reintroduce treadmills which worked for thousands of years using slaves and more recently in gyms.
A two-person treadmill, would probably give you enough power for a computer, a fridge and some light bulbs, but you would either have to feed the staff more, with vitamin-enriched drinks, or get the family to do it as part of a keep-fit campaign.
You could also pedal static bicycles or operate wind-up hand generators to make power. And there are wind-up radios in Africa and now there are wind-up mobile phones too. This is not a wind-up.
Someone can put a solar panel array on the roof and that might do some light bulbs, a fridge and a computer, but you need batteries to run them at night. And sunshine.
Someone else can have a wind turbine, but it will need wind.
You could graze sheep or pigs and collect the waste and stir it. A simple bio-digester would give you gas for heating or lighting, or to run a small gas engine for power.
Or you could stir the shit to stop the power cuts.
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