While most of the policy debate regarding the electric grid revolves around climate change and increased use of renewable energy, there is another important aspect of grid reliability–namely, the risks of catastrophic power outages due to natural disasters, cyber or physical attacks, or or an electromagnetic event. Any such event could cause a long-term outage. Security Boulevard, by way of Real Clear Energy, carries a thoughtful piece on whether the United States could survive such a catastrophic event. Following is the conclusion:
Through interviews with leaders in the utility industry and other related experts, the report found that existing plans to restore power were inadequate to deal with a catastrophic power outage.
The NIAC concluded that considerable public and private action is required to mitigate the risks associated with any such outage. Such a power outage could cause cascading failures in other essential services including water and wastewater management, communications, transportation, healthcare, and financial services — all of which are critical to public health and safety and our national and economic security.
The report concluded that the U.S. should approach the challenge in two predominate themes. The first is to “design a national approach to prepare for, respond to, and recover from catastrophic power outages that provides the federal guidance, resources, and incentives needed to take action across all levels of government and industry and down to communities and individuals.”
The second was to improve the nation’s understanding of how cascading failures across critical infrastructure will affect restoration and survival.
Scary stuff, but it is something we must face and address.