April 20, 2014
Friday, December 20, 2013

Residents blast Macri’s generator bill

By Mariano Beldyk
For The Herald

As City bank unveils credit lines for scheme, some PRO members doubt measure

Buenos Aires City Mayor Mauricio Macri’s idea to force all buildings taller than six storeys to acquire and install their own emergency power generator as a preventive measure against future power outages is provoking nothing but short circuits, even in the PRO’s camp.

Consortium associations have accused Macri of trying to take advantge of the difficult situation that many City residents are going through as result of the high temperatures that have caused a huge number of power cuts in the Buenos Aires area since Monday.

“He is taking nothing more than a populist approach,” said Adrián Hilarza, Secretary of the Apartment-Buildings Consortiums Managers’ Civic Association. “Not everyone can afford to buy a power generator of these dimensions, and certainly no consortium can get a loan to finance one.”

In a news conference on Wednesday, Macri said he would present a bill that would force buildings with six storeys or more to be compelled to install an alternative source of energy to keep elevators and water supply running in case of massive blackouts.

Yesterday, Banco Ciudad head Rogelio Frigerio provided the financial how-to: new long-term and low-requirement credit lines for neighbours to acquire the equipment. He also stated the measure would be imposed in such a way to not affect the price of monthly expenses.

“It’s ridiculous,” Hilarza insisted. “Macri thinks he is running a European city.”

Dissent in the ranks

For some Macri allies, the compulsive aspect of the mayor’s announcement (Macri had told them he would encourage his legislators to discuss a bill about the issue) was not particularly welcomed, particularly in a context of spiking social tension and rising temperatures.

“This idea is in response to the needs of the elderly or disabled to have elevators, even during power outages,” PRO Senator Gabriela Michetti said. But even she recognized: “You can’t force anyone to buy a generator. I really don’t know if this should be mandatory.”

The price of a generator for a building starts at 100,000 pesos.

But Hilarza insists the high cost of buying and operating these engines are not the only obstacles to overcome. Beyond the numbers, there is a second but no less important issue: the structural capacity of buildings.

There are lots of buildings that simply do not have enough room to house a machine of the required dimensions.

“To keep lights turned on or water pumps working you need a large-sized machine. Now if you also want to power elevators’ motors, then you are talking about a much bigger generator,” architect Ricardo Zapata told the Herald.

“For you to have an idea, it would be like a small car. If you want an emergency power source to fulfill all those purposes, then you have to find a place to park a small-car-sized machine in your building. Inside, of course.”

Renovations necessary

But even for those who have a garage where this type of machine could be installed without much hassle, it could not be turned on without some basic — and expensive — modifications.

Beside their noise (power generators are nothing more than gas-fuelled motors, so rooms would have to be properly conditioned to reduce noise —)there is another problem to be considered: fumes.

“If you turn on a motor in a closed area, you could posion everyone,” Zapata added.

It works the same way with power generators placed indoors. They must have a proper ventilation system or otherwise risk becoming a deadly trap.

Just a few days ago, a father and his 23-year daughter were intoxicated and died as a consequence of a leak in their small power generator in their Villa Ortúzar neighbourhood apartment.

Such accidents may multiply with a more powerful machine.

Could they be placed on the roof? “Everything is possible provided the structure is strong enough to resist its weight,” Zapata explained to this newspaper.

“But then you would have to contempalte much more money, because you have to hire a clamp machine to lift it; and if it breaks in the future, then you have to get another one to take it down. And that is no cheap operation.”

There is also the problem of fuel, which these generators consume large amounts of. Considering that the price of fuel has been climbing recently, that would be another expenditure to consider.

A complicated machine

And finally, there is the key aspect of maintenance.

“Comparing it again with a car, any vehicle’s motor works better so long as you use it regularly. If not, spark plugs or cylinders may get dirty, and jammed, and so they won’t ignite when neccessary,” Zapata explained.

Undoubdetly, an emergency power supply line provides a temporary solution when the alternative is not having electricity for days.

In the last few days,— as hours passed without electric power,— emergency generators became a necessity for many shops to prevent their merchandise from becoming spoilt.

Yesterday, neighbourhoods where power had been out since last Monday, awoke to the sight of left-over improvised barricades. People, exhausted of hearing nothing more than silence from electricity licensees Edesur and Edenor, had gone out to the streets to protest.

Many of them remained there late into the night, with no solution in sight.


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