Power outages — a key driver for microgrids — are becoming more frequent and costly, according to a report by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE).
In this decade, there is a $135 billion “investment gap” for generation, $24.4 billion for transmission and $48.8 billion for the distribution system, the ASCE said in its report, Electric Infrastructure Investment Gaps in a Rapidly Changing Environment.
The investment gap — the difference between investment trends and expected needs — contributes to a greater number of power interruptions caused by equipment failures, capacity blackout or brownouts, power quality irregularities and intermittent voltage surges, which hurts the economy, according to the report, released September 1.
“Rising incidences of voltage surges, and blackouts, and brownouts that disrupt production add costs to businesses that will make US manufactured products less competitive in international markets,” the trade group said.
Power outages increase
There were 638 transmission-related outages over a five year period starting in 2014 that were voluntarily reported by utilities, according to the report.
Half the outages were caused by severe weather, about a third were triggered by transmission disruptions or failures and 18% were because of faulty systems operations.
However, ASCE found that last year 46% of the outages were attributed to transmission disruptions and interruptions.
“This was perhaps at least partly the result of the unusually heavy fire season in the Western US,” the ASCE said. “Increasing numbers and intensities of fires are one effect of climate change in drier, hotter regions, a trend that’s expected to accelerate.”
In 2017, the national average duration of outage events was 7.8 hours, including major storms, according to the report. When excluding major storms, the outages were half as long.
The Southeast and Western reliability regions had the most outages — 151 and 130, respectively — while the Midwest, Puerto Rico and the Southwest Power Pool reliability regions reported no more than 20 events, according to the report.