If you’ve been feeling like there have been more power outages lately, you’re right.
The U.S. Energy information Administration reports that, since 2013, the average power customer loses power for a total of about two hours per year overall. In 2018, however, the individual yearly average rose to just under six hours, and the average time without power in 2020 was eight hours per energy customer.
The data show that in recent years, power outages have gotten significantly more common. But why? Two significant contributing factors are the increasing number and severity of natural disasters and the age of the grid.
Thunderstorms, blizzards, wildfires, and other weather events can cause damage to the electrical grid and interfere with power distribution and power outages due to weather can last anywhere from a few hours to several days depending on the severity of the damage caused.
While weather related power outages are common, the severity of weather events has increased lately. The 2018 Camp fire in was the deadliest and most destructive recorded in California (CalFire), the 2021 blizzard in Texas was the costliest in both Texas and U.S. history (NOAA), and Hurricane Ian has been reported as being the deadliest hurricane in Florida since 1935 (Finch).
Photo Credit: Wilfredo Lee, Bay Area 9 News
There may be some debate as to why the intensity of weather events has increased; but the fact remains that we’re facing some of the worst natural disasters ever right now, and the increased threat to infrastructure directly correlates to more and worse power outages.
An Aging System
The U.S. power grid was first installed in the 40s and 50s with a projected lifespan of about 50 years. Now, over seventy years later, we’re feeling the effects of a system that hasn’t been updated.
In 2018, a metal hook supporting a high-voltage line snapped, dropping the power line and starting the deadliest wildfire in California history. The hook in question was a decades-old, original component of the power grid. Years of friction slowly filed through the hook until it gave out.
This isn’t an isolated incident. A few miles down from where the hook snapped, the investigating authorities discovered another hook that had almost been worn through.
Photo Credit: NBC Bay Area
Obviously, this is an extreme example, but failures due to age are common and will become even more common as the grid continues to age. One major factor exacerbating the problem is the way the government regulates energy companies. To promote adoption, energy companies were initially sanctioned as monopolies, so they could operate without competition. Nowadays, lack of competition works to the detriment of the grid because a major incentive to offer reliable service is removed when you’re the only service provider customers can choose.
A second stipulation that’s lingered since the inception of power companies is the ability to directly pass off the cost of new construction to the consumers. The same doesn’t go for maintenance costs. This creates a greater incentive to let components of the grid fail and to replace them instead of conducting regular, preventive maintenance.
Essentially, power companies have been incentivized to overlook regular maintenance in favor of new construction, opening the door for continued age-related outages.
The question of why power outages are becoming more common is very complex. There are likely several factors that are contributing but none with more direct impact than worsening weather and the aging power grid.
With the electrical infrastructure we rely on deteriorating and more prone to interruptions from weather now, power independence is more important than ever. With power stations like the Flex 1500 or Kodiak X2, you can back up important devices around your home such as lights, refrigerators, or medical devices. A larger system like the Soluna allows you to back up entire circuits in your home.
Whatever your needs, our lineup of portable power stations and home backup Solutions can help you be ready for the next power outage by building power independence.
EIA. “U.S. Customers Experienced an Average of Nearly Six Hours of Power Interruptions in 2018.” U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), 1 June 2020, https://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.php?id=43915#:~:text=Since%20EIA%20began%20collecting%20reliability,when%20major%20events%20are%20excluded.
EIA. “U.S. Electricity Customers Experienced Eight Hours of Power Interruptions in 2020.” U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), 10 Nov. 2021, https://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.php?id=50316.
Lybarger, Reid. “Ian Is Florida's Deadliest Hurricane since 1935.” Spectrum News, https://www.baynews9.com/fl/tampa/weather/2022/10/05/ian-is-florida-s-deadliest-hurricane-since-1935.
Oliver, John, et al. “Electrical Utilities.” Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, season 9, episode 11, HBO, 15 May 2022.
Van Derbeken, Jaxon. “Long-Term Wear Found on PG&E Line That Sparked Camp Fire.” NBC Bay Area, NBC Bay Area, 19 Nov. 2019, https://www.nbcbayarea.com/investigations/new-images-of-pge-hooks-on-camp-fire-power-line-released/2190709/.