DOE Report: Modernizing Grid Is Best Defense Against Weather-Related Outages

A report released by the White House and Department of Energy (DOE) on Monday that assesses how to best protect the nation’s electric grid from power outages that occur during natural disasters calls for increased cross-sector grid investment and identifies strategies for modernizing the grid.

The report, “Economic Benefits of Increasing Electric Grid Resilience to Weather Outages ,” was released by the White House Council of Economic Advisers and the DOE on Aug. 12—days before the 10th anniversary of the Northeast blackout, which turned out the lights for 55 million customers throughout parts of the Northeastern and Midwestern U.S., and the Canadian province of Ontario.

The report concludes that “severe weather is the leading cause of power outages in the U.S.” and notes that since 1980, the U.S. has sustained 144 weather disasters whose damage cost reached or exceeded $1 billion. Seven of the 10 costliest storms in U.S. history occurred between 2004 and 2012. In 2012, the U.S. suffered 11 billion-dollar weather disasters, the second-most on record, behind only 2011. Over the period between 2003 and 2012, weather-related outages are estimated to have cost the U.S. economy an inflation-adjusted annual average of $18 billion to $33 billion.

The report also points out that the bulk of the nation’s grid—which delivers power to more than 144 million end-use customers in the U.S.—has aged. About 70% of the grid’s transmission lines and power transformers are over 25 years old, and the average age of power plants is over 30 years. “The age of the grid’s components has contributed to an increased incidence of weather-related power outages,” it says.

Strategies identified by the report to modernize the grid include conducting exercises to identify and mitigate the potential impacts of hazards to the grid; working with utilities to harden their infrastructure against wind and flood damage; increasing overall system flexibility and robustness of the grid; and supporting implementation of 21st-century technologies that can quickly alert utilities when consumers experience a power outage or there is a system disruption and automatically reroute power to avoid further outages.

Sources: POWERnews, DOE

SHARE this article