Power Outages are coming

California’s yearly ritual of rolling blackouts is here, and is making our electricity-grid look shoddy. This is the new normal for us as climate change escalates and we keep pushing our infrastructure to limits.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Ida-in Louisiana and Mississippi, more than 1 million homes and businesses are without power; the storm damaged power plants and took down eight high-voltage transmission lines, even knocking a transmission tower into the Mississippi River. The same hurricane and last week’s storm left 125,000 without power in New Jersey to Maine. And in Michigan, extreme heat caused a blackout for another 126000, and the heat advisory.

Aging infrastructure and a lack of resilient, distributed energy sources means these outages will only become more frequent, and rolling blackouts will continue to be a part of the norm as utilities try to avoid settlements and bankruptcy.

Critics of the California Public Utilities Commission’s latest plan, the Emergency Load Reduction Program, have pointed out that the proposal is unclear on how it would reward participants in the demand-side program, and that it does not include any demand response nor distributed energy resources that would make a critical difference.

Last month, Governor Gavin Newsom signed an emergency order to provide a cash-incentive program encouraging large energy users to cut down their electricity consumption, and PG&E announced that it would bury more than 10,000 miles of power lines over the next 10 years in order to prevent more fires, but experts have said this is not enough to keep up with the pace of climate change.

Last year, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission passed an order (2222A) that would lower the barriers to distributed energy resources’ (DER) participation in wholesale markets, a move that could create a more resilient, cleaner grid and cut costs for consumers.

However, compliance has been slow except operators from California and New York, which had pre-existing plans for DER participation. Other RTOs/ISOs would only hand over their compliance plans to FERC with deadlines next year.

In one, solar panels, battery storage, and microgrids will alleviate the effects of blackouts by providing backup power in high-risk communities. In another more disastrous scenario, wealthy residents add solar and energy storage to their homes, middle-class residents run generators that contribute to air pollution, and lower-income families are without electricity for multiple days a year.

At ElectricFish, we looked at data to find a strategy for scenario 1. We built a patent pending siting algorithm, that uses data from electrical grid local power (hosting) capacity, vehicle trip data, and socio-economic demographics to choose the most impactful locations to build distributed storage.

Leveraging artificial intelligence on datasets of public utilities and grid infrastructure we predict and plan for extreme weather events, renewable energy adoption, and increasing demand from vehicle electrification. Data would be at the center- as we usher to the biggest shift in energy infrastructure since the advent of AC electricity over DC.

This is the eighth post in a recurring series of ElectricFish insights around the transition to a modern electricity infrastructure. Stay tuned for our upcoming posts!

References

https://poweroutage.us/

https://www.axios.com/judge-pge-explain-california-dixie-fire-role-dcf693e9-8c49-496e-a8ff-c6d785056d3f.html

https://www.newsweek.com/california-offering-cash-incentives-cut-energy-use-avoid-rolling-blackouts-1614950

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/08/02/us/climate-electricity-infrastructure.html

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/are-blackouts-here-to-stay-a-look-into-the-future/

https://www.theverge.com/2021/7/12/22573648/drought-california-power-grid-electricity-hydro-energy

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/03/200316141505.htm

https://www.gao.gov/products/gao-21-423t

https://www.vox.com/recode/2021/7/3/22560691/power-grid-climate-change-heat-wave

https://www.theverge.com/2021/9/1/22650382/new-orleans-lousiana-gas-plant-entergy-power-outage-hurricane-ida-electricity-grid

https://www.freep.com/story/news/local/michigan/2021/08/25/michigan-forecast-heat-showers/5583368001/

https://www.utilitydive.com/news/the-der-future-is-nearly-here-stuck-in-the-weeds-on-order-no-2222-impleme/603300/

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Anurag Kamal

Anurag Kamal

Co-Founder - ElectricFish | Ex- ORNL, BMW, Volvo-Trucks | Ignite- Stanford GSB | MSME - Michigan Tech | ME - BIT Mesra