Power collapses again in Venezuela

What a mess. The power is down again in more than half the country — coming and going. People are desperate for water. Schools, industry and state buildings are closed. The Russians have sent in troops. The US has told them to get out.

It’s easy to take civilization for granted — until you don’t have one.


h/t to Rafe Champion, who links on Catallaxy to my post on how hard it is to restart a grid. And also to Lance’s comment which was so useful I added it as an update to that post and which is now starring on Catallaxy too .  In case you missed his comment, and because it’s so apt, here it is again:

Lance predicted this could take 3 – 6 months to restart (and scored 67 thumbs up)

This is a teachable moment. Smart people will pause and reflect upon what is happening, lest it happen elsewhere. This is not a game sane people want to play. Societies melt down in a matter of days to weeks without electric power, water, food, transportation, communication, etc.

We’ve yet to see how bad this is going to get. It will get a LOT worse before it gets better.

My guess is it will take 3 to 6 months to restart the grid in Venezuela, even if things go swimmingly. If a few substations and alternators are blown out, it could take 2 years. Longer if some turbines are damaged.

Substation transformers are custom made to order. They do not exist “in stock on hand” at the power levels needed on a national grid scale. Unit substations might be available in smaller sizes, say 50 to 100 MW. But the high voltage and higher power switchgear and transformers can be a 1 to 2 year lead time item even if you have the cash to pay for them.

Why startups can pull awesome loads, wild variations, and are risky and sometimes explode:

Every inductive load (induction motors) takes 6 times the normal running current to start each and every one. In terms of real and imaginary (complex) power components, the Load appears to be almost purely inductive with a Real component vector of nearly zero.

Essentially, Generation must provide 6 times the power it was providing when the grid failed and that reserve simply doesn’t exist. So energizing a substation is an explosive event.

The safest / only way to restart the grid is to isolate all of the loads except residential loads and bring up the lower voltage substations (10 kV) gradually in a controlled fashion. The residential load has resistive components ( water heaters, clothes dryers, cooking ovens, etc ) that help reduce the inductive component and provide a unity power factor component to the apparent load.

Only after the lower voltage grid is stabilized can the higher voltage transmission lines and substations (110 kV to 750 + kV)be re-energized. Even so, it is a precarious dance of balancing generated power with apparent power.

When the generator is connected to the load, it “sees” a reflected wave coming back to the generator that trips the overload safeties and causes the turbine/alternator to disconnect if the apparent power exceeds safe limits. If those safeties aren’t functional, the risk is an exploding substation, alternator, sheared turbine shaft, etc.

This is a nightmare scenario. No sane person ever wants to “smoke test” a power grid by trying a black start. The ramifications are frightening.

This is specifically why keeping a stable grid operational is a lot smarter than trying to roll the dice with intermittent generation and sudden changes in loads.

Twitter – Netblocks

See also The IP Observatory

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29 comments to Power collapses again in Venezuela

  • #

    So Russia sends soldiers, not technicians or aid. Time for Trump to step up and come to the aid of Venezuela’s citizens. The Democrats won’t thank him for it, but the Venezuelans will.


    • #

      Hell Yeah!

      The $US will collapse if they can’t control the worlds access to energy.

      The “Devine Right of Kings” has become the “Devine Right of the Fed”. [ & those who own it]

      I am sure this has absolutely nothing to with the OBOR v The US Hegemon.



      • #

        I think that Jo often sends out confusing signals here often holding up communist China as a shining role model for how to do it right with modern centralised, government run, coal stations for a communal electricity supply while at the same time praising the Austrian Economics, ‘free market’ thinking of the US, while they are blatantly interfering in and manipulating the international markets.


        • #
          Peter C

          Credit where it is due I suppose. China has been investing in Coal Fired Power stations. That is correct policy. Does that make China a shining model, except in that particular instance?

          Is the US acting according to Austrian Economics if they manipulate international markets? Governements do not always follow their announced policies or principles.


        • #
          Tom O

          To be honest, a government should be judged by the quality of life of its citizens. It also cannot be judged by what it can or cannot accomplish because of external interference.

          I think it would probably be difficult to prove that the Chinese populace is far worse off now than it was 30 years ago. I think it is equally hard to prove whether socialism was a failure in Venezuela because of the relentless interference with the government’s ability to function due to sanctions. And it is equally difficult to prove that Australians are far better off giving up reliable electricity and industry so as to virtue signal.

          We live in a world where old values have been totally eroded and replaced with new values. We no longer have an unbiased education being taught to students so that they can get a sense of right and wrong, but have put agenda ahead of education.

          We are taught that freedom of speech is, in fact, the inability to honestly express yourself lest it might hurt someone’s sensitivities. We are being sold the concept that the individual is not important, only the collective is. That in the end, the individual is a “net drain” on society since anything the individual can offer can be better done by AI and robots. We all should just commit suicide and unburden the collective with the weight of our beliefs.

          But take heart. We don’t have to commit suicide because the coming change in the climate coupled with the destruction of reliable power will probably due it for us.


  • #

    How’s all the collectivism and social justice working out for you, Venezuela?


  • #
    Reasonable Skeptic

    Putting on my Activist spin….. next year at the next climate change conflab, Venezuela has met their Paris accord targets early!


  • #

    I remember Lance’s comment from before; very sobering. Coming to a country near you if the loonies have their way.


    • #

      Australia take note, with an election looming have a look at all the party’s environmental policies and any that wish to reduce fossil fuels and increase renewables put them last.

      Unfortunately this will leave little choices but the effort must be made unless people want a taste of societal collapse.

      I believe most Australians like to walk their dogs not eat them.


      • #
        Kinky Keith

        Seems like the only option is to put Electrical Engineers back in charge of designing and operating electricity systems?

        Neither Politicians nor Environmentalists are capable and obviously will bring Venezuela type destruction to a country near you if they aren’t checked soon.

        Tomorrow would be good.

        Venezuela, the Main Event for the coming Federal election.



  • #
    Harry Passfield

    You have to face up to it: Australia has become the UN’s CAGW/NWO guinea pig – their laboratory.
    If they can get away with it there they will expand their mission to other countries. I’ve come to the conclusion that ‘they’ want the first world brought down. There are too many useful idiots (some of which are not idiots – they have an agenda) in your government (we have them in the UK – called Claire Perry).
    Australia is the experiment. You fall, we all fall.


    • #

      And just to add to the UK’s fun, that nice Mr Corbyn (yes, the big Maduro fan) has plans to take control of our National Grid PLC if the voters are mad enough to grant him the keys to Number 10.

      Or at least that’s what the BBC website told us – just before the unauthorised news article was scrubbed from the Internet…..



  • #

    Could it also be that the engineers and technicians, who know how to restart the grid, have fled to neighboring countries?


    • #
      Russ Wood

      Well, we haven’t had a total grid failure in South Africa, but we have had (up to a week ago) rolling blackouts (called ‘load shedding’) for one or two 4-hour periods each day. These are dubbed as a precaution against total failure. However, the major failure has been in the monopoly electricity supplier ESKOM, whose failure to maintain its coal-fired power stations has led to multiple generator failures. (Even the brand-new, unfinished Medupi and Kusile stations are having failures). Of course, the dismissal of the experienced power station engineers (due to the ‘wrong’ skin colour) had ABSOLUTELY nothing to do with it. It also didn’t help that corruption at board and management level led to the purchase of (let’s say) inadequate quality coal (OK – let’s simply call it crappy). And this lousy fuel damaged boilers and injectors. BTW, our lights are still on because of the purchase of at least one tanker of diesel fuel, which is being burnt in ESKOM’s Open-Cycle turbine generators. What was that about Climate Change? Well, at least the ANC government has instituted a ‘carbon tax’, raising the price of petrol to its highest ever!


  • #
    Antoine D'Arche

    this is what the greens want for Australia – grid failure. Why? Cause of what Lance says – SO difficult to restart as to be almost impossible. And after reading Jo’s other post this morning about their new policy release on renewable targets, thermal coal bands… not only do the greens not belong in parliament, they should be [snip, better to mock and scorn them, due process and all – Jo] for advocating this garbage.


  • #
    Mark D.

    Only after the lower voltage grid is stabilized can the higher voltage transmission lines and substations (110 kV to 750 + kV)be re-energized. Even so, it is a precarious dance of balancing generated power with apparent power.

    Lance, how are you going to power the “lower voltage grid” systems without already having the higher voltage transmission lines and substations energized?


  • #

    Surely a warning against messing with the stability of an electricity grid.

    Our future ?


  • #

    The US has been waging war on its southern neighbours for years because they don’t agree with their political system. If Venezuela could sell its resources globally, they would have a lot of income but the US does not like the idea of a free market for oil and has placed sanctions on the country as they have done for all the middle east countries that nationalized their oil production. The US has had a resurgence in controlling international trade and wrecking markets for other countries in their own interests. If it is the political system that ‘wrecks’ the electrical grid in more socialist leaning countries, why are socialist countries like Norway still surging along with their oil and huge taxes? I think that Jo and all the rest of us are being duped that the US is out to make the world a better place for all – no intended offense to the US commentators here, but it is my belief, if not a fact.


    • #
      Mark D.

      Excuse me, what war? War on drugs maybe? You think we should accept drug smuggling in order prop up a dumbass Venezuelan president?

      Venezuela’s plight is nearly entirely due to awful governing by their own. Take a moment and search the web yourself before you malign the US.

      Your own comparison of Norway with a population of 5.3 million to Venezuela with 32 million, per capita oil production of Norway is nearly 5 times greater than Venezuela. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_oil_production besides having one of the most stable governments in the world!

      Do you suppose the rankings here have something to do with the economic tragedy that is Venezuela? https://www.heritage.org/index/ranking

      Yet you blame the US instead of the obvious reality that a stable GOVERNMENT is the key difference?



  • #


    The myth that Sweden is a utopian paradise where all the social problems have been solved and that you can have high growth with high taxes has been touted by Bernie Sanders as well as the many Millennials that follow him.

    The Swedish Economy
    The glory days for Sweden economically took place prior to the 1960s, when they had a free economy, low regulation and lots of wealth. Between 1870 and 1950, Sweden had the highest per capita income growth in the world and became one of the richest countries, behind only Switzerland, the U.S., and Denmark.

    In the 1960s, Sweden started to redistribute wealth, which brought wealth creation to a halt….


    First, it is worth noting that the Nordic counties were economic successes before they built their welfare states. Those productive economies, generating good incomes for their workers, allowed the governments to raise the tax revenue needed to pay for the social benefits. It was not the government benefits that created wealth, but wealth that allowed the luxury of such generous government programs.

    Second, as evidence of the lack of government interference in business affairs, there is the fact that none of these countries have minimum wage laws. Unions are reasonably powerful in many industries and negotiate contracts, but the government does nothing to ensure any particular outcome from those negotiations. Workers are paid what they are worth, not based on government’s perception of what is fair.

    A third example of Nordic commitment to free markets can be found in Sweden which has complete school choice. The government provides families with vouchers for each child. These vouchers can be used to attend regular public schools, government-run charter schools, or private, for-profit schools. Clearly, the use of government funds to pay for private, for-profit schools is the opposite of socialism.


    • #

      Jo, you often talk about how much of a socialist bastion Australia has become and it is true that we have socialist policies (just like many Western nations) here since federation and from both sides of politics, but it makes little sense to pigeon hole countries into ‘socialists’ and ‘non-socialists’ as it is not a simple black and white issue. The articles you quote do absolutely nothing to dispel the fact (or perhaps it is just my opinion) that Norway and most of the Scandinavian countries have a lot of socialist polices – I know people up there. Those countries are nothing like Venezuela. Australia is nothing like Venezuela and your put downs that we have become a socialist basket case are kind of disrespectful to those who genuinely have it tough, not simply as a result of their government, but as a result of the US not liking their government. Commenters here are always drawing parallels with that notorious hero of Austrian economics, whose name I dare not repeat – just count up the number of times that name has been mentioned in your comments over the years – it is a favourite. We have it relatively good here in Oz as do the people up in Norway and it is disrespectful to those suffering elsewhere to claim we have it so tough. I note that even you mentioned in the fanciful imaginings that the greenies would control Australia, that you lammented about the billions that would not be available to the public health system from taxes and royalties levied on our coal exports which would go away along with the income – see you really do like a few ‘socialist’ elements, at least with healthcare.


      • #
        el gordo

        You get a tick from me, we live in a mixed economy and half the population don’t pay any taxes.

        My gripe with the green left slime is there religious devotion to AGW theory, which is a big lie similar to biblical fantasy.


  • #

    The power grid there has been sabotaged by a certain country that shall remain nameless..


    • #
      Peter C

      The power grid there has been sabotaged by a certain country that shall remain nameless.


      By the policies of President Maduro.

      Specifically by not spending taxpayers money on critical infrastructure


  • #

    Does what Lance has been detailing above apply to the SA blackout? Did they have a grid crisis getting power back on?


  • #

    A little dryer version of the post (re: wind causing grid economic troubles)

    The Problem with ‘Take or Pay’
    A second problem is the federal production tax credit of $23/MWh paid to wind generators, coupled with their priority access to the grid. When there is oversupply, wind output is taken preferentially. Capacity payments can offset losses to some extent, but where market prices are around $35-$40/MWh, nuclear plants are struggling. According to Exelon, the main operator of merchant plants and a strong supporter of competitive wholesale electricity markets, low prices due to gas competition are survivable, but the subsidized wind is not. In 2016 the subsidy (production tax credit) is $23/MWh. Though wind is a very small part of the supply, and is limited or unavailable most of the time, its effect on electricity prices and the viability of base-load generators “is huge”.

    If Solar And Wind Are So Cheap, Why Are They Making Electricity So Expensive?