Power Trip (2003)

“Let’s go smash everything.”

Picture this:

In 1998, the American corporation, AES purchased Telasi, a previously state run electricity-distribution company in the former Soviet Republic of Georgia.

Here are some numbers to stew over:
When AES acquired Telasi, the average electricity bill in Tibilisi, Georgia was $24 a month. Wages on average ran somewhere between $15-$75 a month. Do you see the basic problem here?

Under Telasi ownership, electricity in Georgia was free. Once AES took over the operation of distributing electricity, only 10% of the customers paid their bills. Meanwhile AES lost $120,000 a day. Obviously this situation could not last long, and what took place in Georgia is the subject of this fascinating documentary by Paul Devlin.

With outraged customers unable to pay their bills, the army becoming deadbeat customers, businesses getting enormous amounts of electricity ‘free’ thanks to cronyism, and with gangs and politicians muscling their way into the explosive mix, “Power Trip” is an entertaining examination of just what happens when an American corporation tries to run an electricity company in Georgia. And in the meanwhile, we get a good look at Georgia itself–a country fraught with civil unrest, and partially constructed buildings left by the exiting Russians–buildings that are now full of illegal hookups and rigged meters. Just as things look difficult for the population and the AES employees who are trying to wrest money for their services, things get even tougher when the long Georgian winter sets in, and a power deficit begins.

Power Trip explains the system of electricity distribution in Georgia, and this helps in understanding the various levels of corruption. And the film examines all sides of the issue by including interviews from outraged customers, crafty politicians, employees and management. By the time this lively documentary concludes, one cannot help but wonder whether AES did their sums before launching off into this highly risky venture.

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