cheap bills, but all to the spiedo
Facing the contingency and mitigating was the only precarious and available strategy in these days when Argentina’s thermal jumped due to the heat. Since there are no realistic rates, there are no stable investments in the electricity sector either. A story whose caps were burned.
Those of us who spent half a century of life and were children in the 1960s have the same reflex action every time we discover an illuminated environment in our house and no one is there: we turn off the light. It did not matter that we had a comfortable life or that ecology had not yet made its triumphal entry as a politically correct discourse. In any case, we grew up with an innate awareness instilled by our elders not to incur waste, something that was fixed in us forever. The same thing in winter: in the house you walked around in a sweater because there were heaters, but no underfloor heating at full blast. And the king of summer was the loud and cheap fan, because air conditioners were still a rarity.
This austerity in the use of services I was also able to verify not long ago during a hot summer at the UNESCO headquarters in Paris. The cooling was barely noticeable. The First World does not waste its resources.
Since when is extreme heat synonymous with massive outages in Argentina?
In these days of unbearable temperatures, the Argentine Events bulletin of the 43.3 degrees that were recorded on January 29, 1957 in the city of Buenos Aires went around the social networks. The vibrant announcer tells how they carry ice in quantity to refrigerate their equipment and their operators are seen in the nude. The footage does not include reference to any power outage. However, experts remember four critical moments: the so-called “electric diet” (in the mid-1950s), the crisis of 1973/74 (Perón’s last government, with scheduled cuts; even TV channels stopped); something similar happened to Raúl Alfonsín in 1988/89 and –it was not magic– Cristina Kirchner could not avoid blackouts in 2014 either.
The other side of the coin: during the Menem administration, after the privatization of electricity, the service improved. And that was the previous government (which applied powerful tariff increases that provoked resistance within Cambiemos) until the bills were frozen again, even before Macri left power. Investments in improvements stopped again.
The history of local electricity in the last seventy years reflects a constant tug-of-war, depending on the season, to try to improve the provision of the service, which alternates with periods in which only a few patches are applied or, what is worse, the policy prevailing today to look the other way and build ineffable stories on that indifference, like the ones the presidential spokeswoman attempted this week.
“The electrical system is receiving peaks in demand that have to do with industrial reactivation,” said Gabriela Cerruti, and the heat record that melted the AMBA was left as a complementary argument. The rebound in economic activity – which the Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz, protector of Minister Martín Guzmán, described as a “miracle” from a surely well-lit office in the First World – is about the almost total stoppage of the first year of the pandemic. The current production levels still do not even reach those of 2017, when Mauricio Macri governed, a period considered by the current ruling party as “scorched earth”.
It was not the only occurrence of the spokeswoman who, unwittingly, had previously done an indirect favor to the former president by recalling the great blackout of winter Father’s Day 2019 due to a problem in a high-voltage tower. It became clear that his memory did not record any relevant suspension of the electricity service in the four summers that the Cambiemos government went through. It is not by chance: in that period the number and duration of the cuts were reduced.
Macri, from his freshest Patagonian vacation, tweeted a black screen that went viral. There is nothing that delights him more than making the ruling party angry by exposing its weaknesses. Now the government has pulled another rabbit out of the hat: it promises that the Chinese will relieve us of our warm darkness.
As an awareness campaign for more rational consumption, it is difficult to forget that of Edenor (which has not distributed dividends for 19 years) in 2007 (“Que Víctor apague la luz”, an advertisement starring Víctor Sueiro), or the insistence, already in the Macri government, to use air conditioners at 24 degrees to spend less, something that the Kirchnerists made fun of.
The free price of the rates (only in the great window of the AMBA while they are much more expensive in the rest of Argentina and not to mention in the neighboring countries, but it is not cut or cut little) made nobody care the rational use of energy. In Cristina Kirchner’s campaign to be a senator, in 2017, it was recognized that the stepped rates were like a “little salary”.
When she governed, the consumption of air conditioners was encouraged, but she did not worry that the rest of the system would be reinforced accordingly. For that and many other causes, today the consequences are paid.
The worst equation: subsidies that do not stop growing and service that collapses as soon as the heat hits.