The last 20 years have seen more power outages as usage has gone up and cost have increased. Were our lines designed for today’s use?
Power outages from severe weather have doubled over the past two decades across the U.S., as a warming climate stirs more destructive storms that cripple broad segments of the nation’s aging electrical grid, according to an Associated Press analysis of government data. Forty states are experiencing longer outages, including Louisiana — and the problem is most acute in regions seeing more extreme weather, U.S. Department of Energy data shows. The blackouts can be harmful and even deadly for the elderly, disabled and other vulnerable communities. Power grid maintenance expenses are skyrocketing as utilities upgrade decades-old transmission lines and equipment. And that means customers who are hit with more frequent and longer weather outages also are paying more for electricity. “The electric grid is our early warning,” said University of California, Berkeley grid expert Alexandra von Meier. “Climate change is here and we’re feeling real effects.”nola.com
There are a number of factors that have contributed to this increase in events.
Driving the increasingly commonplace blackouts are weather disasters now rolling across the country with seasonal consistency. The AP analysis found: The number of outages tied to severe weather rose from about 50 annually nationwide in the early 2000s to more than 100 annually on average over the past five years, The frequency and length of power failures are at their highest levels since reliability tracking began in 2013 — with U.S. customers on average experiencing more than eight hours of outages in 2020, Louisiana, Maine and California each experienced at least a 50% increase in outage duration even as residents endured mounting interruption costs over the past several years and In California alone, power losses have affected tens of thousands of people who rely on electricity for medical needs. The AP analyzed electricity disturbance data submitted by utilities to the U.S. Department of Energy to identify weather-related outages. The analysis also examined utility-level data covering outages of more than five minutes, including how long they lasted and how often they occurred. Department officials declined comment.
The pulled out Louisiana problems started with Ida.
The combination of at-risk infrastructure and climate change can be deadly: After Hurricane Ida knocked out power to much of coastal Louisiana last year, heat killed or contributed to the deaths of at least 21 people, local coroners reported. In New Orleans alone, heat caused nine deaths and contributed to 10 others, according to coroner’s office records. Most who died were elderly and African American. Spokesman Jason Melancon could not say which victims did not have power, but 75% of the city was still without power when most died. David Sneed, 65, died in his wheelchair on the 12th-floor of the subsidized apartment where he’d been without power for several days after the storm hit Aug. 29. Sneed was obese and had a cognitive impairment that made walking difficult, so he used the wheelchair most of the time, said Rev. Ken Taylor, a professor at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, where Sneed was a doctoral student. Three days after the storm, Sneed called Taylor in near-panic and said he was unable to leave because the building’s elevator was not working. So the next day, Taylor went to Sneed’s apartment to bring him food and water — and it felt like 100 degrees, with no windows open. When the professor returned the following day, he found the elevator was working. Sneed said he’d go down to the first floor where it was cooler. But when the reverend came back to check on him again, Sneed didn’t answer. When an apartment employee opened the door, Sneed’s body was in the bedroom, slumped in his wheelchair. “I speculate that he had rolled into his bedroom to put on some pants to go downstairs … and the heat or his heart or a combination of the two” killed him, Taylor said. The coroner’s office said Sneed died from the heat.
Entergy did not escape as their infrastructure is old, which is probably found all over this country.
The financial toll of storms is huge — Louisiana’s largest power company has said it will cost an estimated $4 billion to repair damage from the hurricanes of 2020 and 2021. State regulators have approved $3.2 billion of that, which Entergy Corp. estimates will add $8 a month for 15 years to the average residential bill. Problems with the grid and costs to fix them are expected to grow in coming decades, said U.C. Berkeley’s von Meier. Much of the grid was built decades ago, and the majority of power transmission facilities are now at least 25 years old. That’s forced utilities to quadruple spending on the U.S. transmission system since 2000 to about $40 billion annually, according to Department of Energy data. Billions more will be spent, with costs passed on to consumers, but those efforts won’t keep up with problems from climate change, von Meier said. “Rates will go up, reliability will go down,” she said. Read the full analysis.
I don’t think this is new as most of us would have this thought in our minds. It is hotter. There are more and fiercer storms. We do see power outages. Climate change is real and probably part of the cause as well.