September 06, 2003

Distributed Power, Iraqi style?

I just read Virginia Postrel's reader supplied suggestion that Iraq get a large load of generators shipped over there to allow them to have distributed power while the US military secures the country from saboteurs.

I find myself in the unaccustomed role of being the wet blanket for this suggestion. I've written before on the subject and am quite enthusiastic on getting away from centralized power but they really need more than a few generators to make it work.

The problem is that providing electricity is a combined problem of capital goods (the generator) and consumption goods (the fuel supplies) and on a yearly basis, it's the fuel that dominates. So even if you parachute in a free generator for every Iraqi family, many families won't be able to run it very often because they can't afford the fuel. Of course, the families that would have the most problems are poor and it is among these people that Saddam's offers of money for attacks would look most attractive.

Generators are a piece of the puzzle but what's required are generators with interconnects that can push current back out onto the grid so you don't just have lights on in houses in the top 5% of Iraqi society with everybody else tripping over their useless generators in the dark.

Posted by TMLutas at September 6, 2003 03:19 PM