Episode 131: Can we prevent blackouts?

Professor Jay Apt, from Carnegie Mellon’s Tepper School of Business and the Department of Engineering & Public Policy, examines the inevitability of electrical blackouts and how we can be prepared.



Learn more

What You Need to Know When the Power Goes Out Unexpectedly
from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Economic Benefits of Increasing Electric Grid Resilience to Weather Outages from the Department of Energy

Final Report on the August 14, 2003 Blackout in the United States and Canada from the U.S.-Canada Power System Outage Task Force (2004)

Energy Disruption Map from the U.S. Energy Information Administration

Power Outage Tips from Ready.gov


HOST: Have you ever wondered if we can prevent electrical blackouts? On this week’s Energy Bite, Jay Apt, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University, has some answers.

APT:  Most losses of electric power are caused by small things, like a a pickup truck knocking a pole down or ice on the wires in your neighborhood. But sometimes huge blackouts happen, like the 2003 northeast outage that took out 20 million customers.

We’ve looked at data on blackouts over the last 30 years, and there isn’t any change in the statistics at all. So, blackouts due to things like hurricanes, earthquakes, and wildfires will be with us for a very long time to come.

HOST: How can we better prepare for blackouts?

APT:   I lived in Houston for 15 years, and we got a category 1 hurricane ever three or four years there, resulting in power outages of 5 days or a week. Here in the North, where ice storms can take power out for weeks at a time, as they did in Montreal in the 1990s, people are less prepared. But we can be more prepared if neighborhood associations have generators and small microgrids that could keep essential services going until power returns.

HOST: Are you prepared for an electrical blackout? Take our poll, see the results, and ask your energy questions at Energy Bite dot org.

ANNOUNCER: Energy Bite is a co-production between 90.5 WESA and Carnegie Mellon’s’ Scott Institute for Energy Innovation.


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