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Power Outages Should be an Expected Operating Condition

On April 13, 2021, storms swept across the eastern U.S, resulting in at least 34 tornados wreaking havoc in the southern and southeastern portions of the country. Strong winds and rains pelted the East and Northeast the following day.

At 10:17 AM EST on April 13, over one million customers were without power in the eight most-affected states. Another 200,000 were without power in the Mid-Atlantic Region. The Mid-Atlantic and Northeast were experiencing rainstorms with 50+ mile per hour (88+ kilometers per hour) wind gusts and watching for tornados.

Events like these occur have occurred repeatedly throughout 2021, both in the United States and around the world. Significant events that have resulted in power outages include:

• A heatwave in the USA’s Pacific Northwest
• A heatwave and resulting wildfires in Greece and Turkey
The Texas Freeze
Flooding in Germany
"The trend is unlikely to abate any time soon. The Economist reports that “Children born in 2020 will face a two- to seven-fold increase in extreme climate-related events compared to those born in 1960, under current climate pledges.”1 Add the impacts from all those weather events, plus outages caused by non-weather factors, and it is easy to see that the cumulative effects of outages are significant to users and communities.
What's the significance of this information? Power outages have commonly occurred, will continue to do so, and thus require appropriate planning as a condition of operation. Is this a new finding? No …. Industry experts have pointed this out all along, and backup power systems have been around nearly as long as electrical grids.

At ASCO, we remind people that outages of the normal power supply should always be viewed as a foreseeable operating condition. When power outages do occur, the costs of disruption and recovery are substantial. Consequently, backup power systems provide real value. Consider the impacts of outages on mission-critical facilities such as large data centers that make modern economic activity possible … or the present demand for life-saving services at medical facilities that rely on power. Disruptions in power flow can and do have monumental impacts.

The power utility industry has provided electricity in the United States and other regions for more than a century and is itself a testimony to an enduring legacy of meeting many customer needs. Backup power systems have been around for nearly as long. Because extreme weather has become more frequent, utility outages will remain common for the foreseeable future. This underscores the need for backup power at new facilities, and for maintaining backup power equipment wherever it is necessary for critical services. This is especially important for mission-critical and life-saving facilities.

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"1The Economist. Children born today are likely to face seven times more extreme weather events than their grandparents. September 28, 2021. https://www.economist.com/graphic-detail/2021/09/28/children-born-today-are-likely-to-face-seven-times-more-extreme-weather-events-than-their-grandparents. Accessed September 30, 2021."

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For related reading, see:

• White Paper - Specifying Outdoor Transfer Switch Enclosures for Extreme Weather
• White Paper - Code Changes After Hurricane Sandy
• Technical Brief - Is Your Backup Power System Ready? Prove It.
• Technical Brief - Backup Power for Critical Refrigeration

For additional information, contact ASCO Customer Care.

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