The U.S. electrical grid is seriously outdated and unable to handle increasing demands for energy amidst extreme weather and a growing number of cyberattacks. As these issues become the new norm, lengthy blackouts and shortages will increase in frequency unless upgrades to the infrastructure are implemented.
That’s the conclusion from a new report, Grid in Peril: The Problem Statement, commissioned by SAFE, an energy grid watchdog that routinely reports on various facets of the U.S. electrical infrastructure through its Grid Security Project. The study outlines shortcomings in the grid that are exasperated by increased energy usage and extreme environmental conditions.
“Extreme weather events, cyber espionage, and domestic terror attacks, combined with increasing demand on aging infrastructure, have turned the occasional power failure into alarmingly common events in cities across the United States,” said Thomas Coleman, executive director of SAFE’s Grid Security Project.
The report references an increase in rolling blackouts throughout California from wildfires, record-breaking heat waves throughout the Northwest, a cyber-attack on Colonial Pipeline, and the Texas grid failure during a cold snap in 2021 as pressing reasons to make upgrades now. Failures in the grid can leave people stranded in dangerous conditions without the means to contact help.
“Unless we act with urgency—through active engagement with state and federal regulators—these ‘black swan’ events threaten only to become more frequent, costly, and lethal, undermining larger energy transition and infrastructure goals, as well as our national security,” said Coleman.
The Grid Security Projects warns ignoring the problem will only make things worse down the line, and we’re already seeing some of the effects of aging power grids.
The report notes current federal and state policies don’t incorporate known risks to the grid. Energy demands are increasing throughout the U.S., but policies and regulatory barriers create obstacles to expediting permits for upgrades. SAFE supports legislative action to reform and streamline the process to build out necessary changes to create a reliable power grid. This includes increasing reliance on renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power.
”The progeny of the infrastructure on which our great-grandparents once relied is increasingly inadequate to serve as the foundation of today’s modern economy. In other words, the grid needs updating and fast,” said SAFE.