Disruption to electricity
supply underline vital need
for skilled electricians and lumberjacks
Helsinki (02.01.2012 - Juhani Artto) After Boxing Day there has been an
urgent demand for skilled lumberjacks and electricians. The demand was
created by the storms Finland experienced on Boxing Day and in the days
following. The storms were exceptionally strong for this Northern European
country, and knocked down, according to first estimates, some 3.5 million
cubic meters of trees.
The economic loss for forest owners is estimated to be tens of millions of
but the day-long cuts in electricity supply has been the main focus in the
public domain. When things were at their worst almost 300,000 homes and
other customers were left without electricity. Tens of thousands of
customers had to live without electricity for several days, which is
exceptional in Finland. One week after Boxing Day still about 10,000 homes
suffered of the broken electricity lines.
The power cuts were the result of trees falling on power lines.
Outside urban areas electricity is mostly distributed through overhead power
lines supported by a network of electricity poles. This is the traditional
technical solution as constructing storm-safe underground lines is much more
expensive. Experts estimate that replacing the present pole supported lines
with underground lines would cost at least EUR 10 billion. Such a high cost
means that the electricity supply, in rural areas, will remain vulnerable to
storms for many years to come.
Consequently, public attention has been focussed on how quickly the
electricity companies are
able to repair the lines damaged by falling trees. It is clear that when
storms wreak havoc the more skilled electricians and lumberjacks there are
on hand, the shorter the time needed to repair the lines. From the company
perspective there is
another equation, too. The more personnel they have in reserve for emergency
situations the more they have to spend on wages and the more these "extra"
costs eat into their profits.
Thus, electricity companies try to balance the urgency factor (when it comes
damaged power lines) against their much-publicised goal to reduce manpower
recent storms have now exposed the risks involved when heavy cuts in
skilled workers in the emergency organization are made.
The Wood and Allied Workers Union organizing lumberjacks reiterated on
Wednesday that working in forests damaged by the storms is very demanding and
must be left to skilled lumberjacks. Right now there is a shortage of these
skilled operatives as forest
companies have been doing everything in their power to minimize their labour
The union warns that this policy destroys the know-how and skills needed in
safeguarding the functioning of electricity and road networks so as to
people's safety in the event of emergencies.
According to media reports the largest electricity supplier Fortum has had a
total of 500 electrician and lumberjacks at work in repairing damages since
Boxing Day. The
second largest supplier Vattenfall has had 300
electricians and lumberjacks operating in its repair organisation.