7 Vulnerabilities Lead to Increased Power Outages this Summer

electrical grid vulnerabilities summer

Summer and Extreme-Weather Related Power Outages Are Coming

The electrical grid and the supply of electricity are facing several obstacles this summer, and it is more important than ever to plan for an emergency backup power solution. If your business needs a generator or UPS system to maintain operations during a power outage, the time to act is now. Due to ongoing global supply chain issues, potential lack of electricity supply due to widespread drought, as well the prediction of an active hurricane season, power outages and the demand for backup power generators are expected to increase this summer, while supplies will remain a challenge.

Currently, drought conditions exist or are threatening large parts of North America, and this is creating a serious challenge for our utilities and current electrical infrastructure. To create enough electricity to meet demand, utilities rely on energy output from several different sources including coal, natural gas, and nuclear power plants, as well as renewables like wind, hydropower, solar, and geothermal plants. Several of these energy sources are being negatively affected by drought conditions and have been noted by the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) as potential threats to power reliability in summer 2022. According to the NERC, ongoing drought conditions could lead to a lack of available electricity this summer, at the same time that demand could be peaking, ultimately overloading our electrical grid and leading to increased planned and unplanned power outages.

Sourcing from the NERC 2022 Summer Reliability Assessment, as well as our in-house team of power engineers with over 50 combined years of experience, we’ve identified 7 vulnerabilities to be aware of, as they could lead to increased power outages this summer for large portions of North America, and may affect your ability to acquire emergency backup power equipment when you need it:

1. Supply Chain Issues

Most industries are still affected by global supply chain issues, and the backup power industry is no exception. With demand for generators continuing to rise, lead times for new equipment are still well above normal. With extended lead times anywhere from several months to even a year or more for the largest equipment, the number of available generators on the market is just not enough to meet spikes in demand. This imbalance means that some businesses will not get the emergency backup power that they need, when they need it.

2. Reduced Hydro Generator Output

Widespread drought and below normal snowpack are affecting energy output from hydro generators that utilities rely on throughout most of the western United States. The reduced energy output from hydropower systems will further strain electricity supply, and if dry conditions persist could affect the delivery of hydroelectricity throughout the Western region. This increases the likelihood that the available electricity will not meet spikes in demand.

3. Large Scale Heat Events in Texas

NERC has pointed to Texas as an area of particular concern for this summer, where recent weather conditions, including extreme drought affecting much of the state, can produce prolonged heat events for large areas. While Texas has worked to improve the ERCOT system in recent years, NERC points out that extreme heat increases power demand, and when combined with adverse weather conditions that could reduce output from solar, wind, and thermal power sources, system operators could be forced to use emergency procedures to prevent catastrophic grid failures and extended outages.

4. Reduced Output from Thermal Generators in the Missouri River Basin

Thermal generators that contribute to the supply of electricity and use the Missouri River for cooling are being impacted by low water levels caused by ongoing drought. Again, this reduced energy output could lead to insufficient supply of electricity and could force utility system operators to resort to emergency procedures, including periodic scheduled and unscheduled brownouts to prevent severe damage to the existing energy sector infrastructure.

5. Cyber Security Threats from Russia

Another potential power reliability issue for summer 2022 is the threat of malicious cyber-attacks from Russia. The NERC assessment notes that computer hackers from Russia may be planning or attempting to gain access to the electrical grid in North America and create disruptions as retaliation for the United States support for Ukraine.

6. Active Wildfire Season in the Western United States and Canada

Coming off an extremely dry winter, western states are expected to experience an active wildfire season. In California and other high-risk areas, this could mean additional Public Safety Power Shutoffs (PSPS), where certain powerlines are de-energized during high wind events to reduce the chance of a wildfire breaking out. Should wildfires break out and damage electrical infrastructure, longer-term power outages are possible. If drought conditions persist, the entire western United States could be at an elevated risk for wildfires and associated power outages this summer.

7. Above-Average Hurricane Season Predicted

The USGS and weather forecasters are calling for an active and above average hurricane season this year. While we are thankful things are off to a slow start, hurricanes and tropical storms can pose a threat to power infrastructure and create large scale and long-term power outages. It can also be difficult to move backup power equipment into an area that has been hit by a hurricane, making it even more important to plan in advance.

In summary, drought related energy deficiencies, as well as cyber, wildfire, and hurricane threats are putting large parts of North America at risk of longer-term and more frequent power outages. For businesses that rely on power continuity to maintain operations, now is the time to plan for a backup power solution. Generators and UPS systems can be configured to protect your business, while they are in high demand, they are available.

Global Power Supply can help your business achieve power reliability, and the peace of mind that goes with it. We help businesses every day with backup, prime, and continuous power solutions. Contact our experienced team with any questions, quote requests, or expert advice you may need. Please contact us today for a free consultation on how we can help.