If it seems the number of power outages have increased over the years, you’re not crazy. According to Dave Davis of NPR, from the 1950s to the 1980s, fewer than five significant power outages per year occurred in the U.S. In 2007, the number increased to 76, and in 2011, there were more than 300.
In Indiana alone, between 2013-14, 552,936 Hoosiers lost electricity due to a power outage. 123,410 of these lived in central Indiana. A year earlier in 2012, 6,001,491 Hoosiers lost power during several severe thunderstorms.
The problem is nationwide. Since 2011, three of the nine worse blackouts in U.S. history have occurred, according to Electric Choice: Hurricane Sandy (2012), the Derecho Blackout (2012), and the Southwest blackout (2011). This list doesn’t include blackouts from hurricanes Irma and Maria, which formed in fall of 2017. Hurricane Irma knocked out power to 6.7 million electricity customers in Florida, and Maria knocked out power on the entire island of Puerto Rico (population about 3.4 million). The devastation in Puerto Rico was so severe that five months after the hurricane, about 400,000 residents were still without power.
To illustrate the problem, check out this video (produced by Jordan Wirfs-Brock, journalist for Inside Energy). The video shows power outages across the U.S. between 2000 and 2014. You can watch as the number of outages increases as the years pass.
Also check out the graph below, based on data from “Blackout Tracker: United States Annual Report 2017” by EATON. In the past ten years, an additional 1,000 power outages have occurred per year in the U.S.
There are several reasons why there are more power outages now than in the past. The first is that the electrical grid is outdated and needs major overhaul. To perform the upgrades that it needs will require upwards of 5 trillion dollars. Because replacing the grid costs more capital than the country currently possesses, it continues to degrade.
A second reason why there are more power outages has to do with deregulation of electrical companies. Since electrical companies were deregulated in the late 1990s, they have regularly run up the capacity of the electrical grid because it increases their profits. Doing this means, of course, that it’s easier for the grid to reach capacity, thereby causing brownouts and blackouts (as happened in 2003).
A third reason why there are more blackouts has to do with the increased frequency of severe weather across the U.S. Between the 1950s and 2000s, the number of downpours across the country increased 40 percent; floods have become more common; and hurricane activity has increased. The frequency and severity of thunderstorms has likewise increased in the U.S. since the 1950s.
It’s not all bad news, however. According to a University of Vermont dissertation written by Shawn Adderly, published in Graduate College Dissertation and Theses, the magnitude of power losses in the U.S. have decreased from 2003 to 2007 and possibly from 2003 to 2014. Adderly concludes that the number of power outages may be decreasing over time. His conclusion, of course, contradicts data cited above, so his research might better indicate that outages are on average smaller or last a shorter amount of time due to better reporting and monitoring technologies.
Be Prepared for Power Outages
All this means that unless the grid is overhauled and weather grows more mild, you’re likely to experience more blackouts in the years to come — short or otherwise. While we’re used to living comfortably with the expectation that the power won’t go out, it’s a good idea to prepare for the increased likelihood of a power outage. Storing some emergency supplies and connecting your home or business to a standby generator are two ways to prepare.
For more information about standby generators, check out www.midwestgeneratorsolutions.com. Standby generators are the ultimate way to protect your home and business from electrical outages so you can maintain your comfort and maintain your investments.