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With Extreme Weather Events Causing Power Outages on the Rise, Utilities Can Take Steps to Enhance their Power Resilience

With Extreme Weather Events Causing Power Outages on the Rise, Utilities Can Take Steps to Enhance their Power Resilience

Created: Thursday, February 15, 2024 - 14:57
Federal & State Resources, General Security and Resilience, Natural Disasters

On Tuesday, a large storm in Australia’s Victoria’s state led to power outages for hundreds of thousands of people. While in the U.S. over the past few weeks, extreme weather events and cold temperatures across have led to significant power disruptions. Water and wastewater utilities are encouraged to assess their current preparedness efforts and work to enhance their power resilience as natural hazard threats rise.

In five of the past 11 years, portions of the U.S. power grid have been hit by blackouts, shut-offs, or close calls during cold weather, according to an NBC News review of federal, state, and utility records. Extreme temperatures, both hot and cold, place greater strain on the grid as demand for electricity grows, which has led to power outages in places like Texas. In addition, extreme weather events can damage or destroy electrical infrastructure leading to disruptions. The storms last week in California, for instance, knocked out power for a record number of residents. And the storm in Australia this week, which included powerful winds, knocked over several high-voltage electric transmission towers, causing all four units of a local power station to trip and go offline. With extreme weather events forecast to increase in frequency and intensity due to climate change, utilities are encouraged to reassess their electricity needs and take steps to enhance their operational resilience.

To start, members can review the EPA’s “Power Resilience Guide,” which offers utilities information and strategies to help strengthen relationships with their electric providers and increase their resilience to power outages. EPA also has an incident action checklist for power outages and a brochure for tips on generator preparedness. In addition, a few years ago, the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory organized a workshop that identified barriers between sectors and created strategies for increasing coordination and integrated planning between water and electric utilities, that study can be accessed here.

Utilites can also utilize the Interruption Cost Estimate (ICE) Calculator, which helps entities estimate the economic impacts of power interruptions. Furthermore, CISA’s “Resilient Power Best Practices for Critical Facilities and Sites,” offers guidance and discusses power resilience in regards to the all-hazards threat landscape. Lastly, utilities can apply for grants, like FEMA’s BRIC program, and build a microgrid for their facility. Read more at the Conversation and at NBC News.