Saturday, November 9, 2013

Lessons From Industry - Rolling Blackouts

This article was originally written in the summer but has sat in my drafts...

Last week was the 10th anniversary of the great black of 2003. So this week, we're taking a strategy from the electricity industry, and applying it my personal life.

Rolling Blackouts - When There's Not Enough To Go Around

Wikipeida Defines a Rolling Blackout as follows:
A rolling blackout, also referred to as load shedding, is an intentionally engineered electrical power shutdown where electricity delivery is stopped for non-overlapping periods of time over different parts of the distribution region.
When there's not enough power to supply the system, power companies will do this. Another option is to lower the voltage, or what's called a brown out. Think of lowering the voltage as the power company still supplies everyone but spreads out the power, so it's weaker. The problem with brown-outs is many electrical devices only work when the power is at normal voltage (or "regular strength"), a brown out can cause machines to stop working or even damage them.

So, a rolling blackout is a useful strategy if you don't have enough of a resource to do everything, but when you do assign the resource somewhere, it's better to use all of it, some of the time, than spread it around.

At Home: All of a resource, some of the time?

There are numerous examples at home where this might work.

Instead of spreading your Christmas present budget around amongst all family member, you could only buy one present for one family member. Every year, one person receives one really good present instead of everyone receiving a mediocre present.

If you give to charity, why not make one big donation to one charity rather than spread it around to many little charities? Giving one large donation in one year versus spreading smaller donations out across multiple years in Canada has tax advantages.  Since in 2013,  the tax credit is 15% on the first $200 and 29% on the amount over $200.

Rather than having children share a common resource (video game system, TV, family car), why not give them assigned blocks of time that they are allowed exclusive use of it. This way instead of either of them getting a partial share of the action, they each get their own time at full power, with no squabbling and clear access rights. By scheduling this time (like a scheduled blackout), each family member can schedule themselves to make most efficient use of their allotted time. We don't have children now, can any parents tend to comment?

What about vacations? Is it better to take one big vacation every 2 years? Or every 5 years? Rather than smaller vacations more frequently. How memorable have your smaller vacations truly been?

These are just a few examples, can you think of any?


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