Grid Resilience Undermined by Severe Weather

Sept. 23, 2013
Weather-related outages in the U.S. cost upwards of $30 billion annually.

As seen with Hurricane Sandy and the growing severity of adverse weather events, climate change has become one of the top causes of power outages in the U.S.

The frequency and intensity of severe weather has prompted a call to improve grid resilience, according to a report released by the White House Council of Economic Advisers and the DOE.

The push is supported by the report’s analysis, which examines the impact of power outages caused by severe weather between 2003 and 2012. Key findings include:

  • Weather-related outages cost an estimated annual average of $18-33 billion (inflation adjusted).
  • Roughly 679 power outages occurred due to weather events, each affecting at least 50,000 customers.
  • In 2012, the United States suffered 11 weather disasters that cost over a billion dollars – the second highest behind 2011 for any year on record.
  • Since 1980, the United States has sustained 144 weather disasters with damage costs reaching or exceeding $1 billion.
  • Seven of the ten costliest storms in U.S. history occurred between 2004 and 2012.

To address the aging nature of the grid and the impact of climate change, the report identified several key areas of improvements. One strategy would be to conduct exercises that identify and mitigate the potential impacts of hazards to the grid.

Another is to implement technologies that can quickly alert utilities when consumers experience a power outage. The same tools could also identify system disruptions and automatically reroute power to avoid further outages.

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