Part of a Series
We can make investments in a more resilient electric system so that damages to power lines and other parts of the grid don’t cause people to go without power for days on end.
First, smart meters—devices in consumers’ homes that monitor their power use and communicate with the utility—can make it much easier for line crews to respond to outages without waiting for consumers to call the utility. This would be especially useful in times when telecommunications systems are damaged and people can’t call the utility.
Second, we need more power generation distributed around the grid, rather than all of it being centralized in large power plants. When we rely on centralized power plants, damages to just one line can cause massive outages. If the generation was spread widely across the grid, then damage to that same line will not have the same catastrophic consequences. While some people help by buying a diesel-burning generator (which pollutes the air and has very high fuel costs), many people could make a much smarter investment by putting solar panels on their rooftops.
Finally, when the lights do go out, we need to get them turned back on faster. Smart meters will certainly help get crews dispatched faster, but we also simply need more crews. The utility industry has a remarkable record of cooperation—utilities often lend workers to each other in times of need. But with utility workers retiring extremely quickly, the industry faces a labor shortfall in the near future. We need more qualified people to enter the industry.
Utilities, government, and consumers can all play a role in making these changes happen.
For more on this topic, please see:
- How to Keep the Lights On by Richard W. Caperton and Adam James