Weather-Related Power Outages: What Utility Companies Need to Know

Weather-Related Power Outages 

Severe weather is the leading cause of power outages in the U.S. reports that between 2003 and 2012, severe weather caused an estimated 679 individual, widespread power outages. Power outages are large problems for utility companies. This is because power outages shut down businesses, impede emergency services and cost the economy billions of dollars. We know you can’t control the weather; However, utility companies can be proactive when it comes to reducing weather-related power outages. Understanding how they work helps you stop them.

They’re on the Rise

Climate Central reports that weather-related power outages are on the rise. In their analysis of 28 years of U.S. power outage data, Climate Central shows a tenfold increase in major power outages between the mid-1980s and 2012. As you can see from the graph below, the increase in outages began around the year 2003.

An analysis from the Department of Energy of the last 15 years of power outage data shows a similar story. If you query ‘severe weather’ in their application, thousands of results show up.

The breakdown of the outages from Climate Central are as followed: 59% of weather-related outages were caused by storms and severe weather, 19% by cold weather and ice storms, 18% by hurricanes and tropical storms, 3% by tornadoes, and 2% by a combination of severe weather events and wildfires. Major power outages of this nature cost Americans between $20 and $55 billion annually.

How to Reduce Storm-Related Outages

Storms can cause power outages in a number of ways. Many storm-related outages are a result of trees taking out power lines. To reduce these types of outages, following a tree-trimming schedule near your lines is important. Another way to reduce storm-related outages is to utilize “undergrounding.” Undergrounding is the practice of putting electricity distribution lines underground. This method helps improve the reliability of service in some places susceptible to storm damage.

A third way to reduce storm-related power outages is to implement smart grid improvements. It’s no secret that much of the U.S. power grid is aging. In fact, the average age of power plants is now over 30 years. Since facilities only have a life expectancy of 40 years, it’s important for you to make sure your facilities are updated so they can perform at their best.

One last method for reducing your power outages due to bad weather is simply monitoring the weather to predict outages. No matter how storm-ready you make your facility, lines, and overall service, extreme cases of bad weather still remain a threat. In these instances, power outages can be inevitable. When major storms like a hurricane are headed your way, it’s important to understand as much as you can about the storm to optimize the return of service. This includes the timeline of the storm, the path of the storm, and the post-storm weather conditions (like flooding). Relying on your favorite news station to provide these conditions with accuracy won’t ensure the best chances for your utility company. Commercial-grade weather data is fastest, most reliable solution for utility companies after a severe weather crisis.

Learn more about the value of free vs. paid weather data with our free white paper.