Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Hot Summer Topic: Economist Explains Why Heat Waves Spur Electricity Blackouts

Date:
August 24, 2006
Source:
Massachusetts Institute Of Technology
Summary:
Intense heat and record-breaking energy demand strained New England's electrical grid nearly to its limit on Wednesday, Aug. 2, but the regional system rose to the challenge, says an MIT professor who studies the economics of electricity distribution.

Satellite images show the New York City area about 20 hours before (left) and 7 hours after the blackout of Aug. 13, 2003. MIT economist Paul Joskow explains that such blackouts are usually caused by problems with power distribution and equipment, not power shortages.
Credit: Image courtesy of NOAA

Intense heat and record-breaking energy demand strained New England's electrical grid nearly to its limit on Wednesday, Aug. 2, but the regional system rose to the challenge, says an MIT professor who studies the economics of electricity distribution.

Related Articles


"They did really well in managing the system on a very difficult day," said Paul Joskow, the Elizabeth and James Killian Professor of Economics and Management.

Electricity demand in New England peaked at a record-high 28,021 megawatts on Aug. 2, according to ISO New England, the company that operates the region's electrical grid.

Unlike California, which endured a two-week heat wave that left many homes in the dark, New England was lucky that the mercury approached 100 degrees for only two days last week.

"If that (heat) had gone on for a week, they would have started having failures of equipment ... and there might have been rolling blackouts," said Joskow, who is also director of the MIT Center for Energy and Environmental Policy Research.

To reduce the strain on the power grid, ISO New England offered payments to businesses willing to lower their electricity usage during the day. The company also bought electricity from Canada and directed excess power from Maine, the only New England state spared the heat crisis, to other states.

Last week's heat wave showed that the New England region has enough electricity to meet current peak demands, Joskow said, but no new plants are under construction, which could become a problem as electricity demand grows and as older, polluting plants need to be replaced.

"Demand continues to grow, especially peak demand on hot days, as more and more people put in air conditioning," he said. Distribution problems

And even though the region generally produces enough electricity, blackouts often occur when the equipment that delivers electricity to neighborhoods and homes becomes overloaded. It is a common misperception that blackouts are caused by power shortages, but in any given year, about 90 percent of the power outages that customers experience are due to problems with the local distribution network, Joskow said.

For example, most of the recent blackouts in California, Missouri and New York City were caused by failures of distribution equipment due to high demand and extreme heat.

In New England, much of the distribution system was built in the 1960s and 1970s and is reaching the end of its useful life. Expenditures to replace aging equipment and to keep up with growing demand need to increase, he said. State regulators should create a robust regulatory framework that gives distribution companies sufficient resources and incentives to support these necessary investments, and consumers need to understand that they will have to pay for the associated costs, according to Joskow.

"As those facilities age and more and more demand is put on them, they're more prone to fail, especially during hot weather," Joskow said. "In the end, if your local distribution system fails, you don't get power, no matter how many generating plants there are in the region."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Massachusetts Institute Of Technology. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Massachusetts Institute Of Technology. "Hot Summer Topic: Economist Explains Why Heat Waves Spur Electricity Blackouts." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 24 August 2006. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/08/060822173500.htm>.
Massachusetts Institute Of Technology. (2006, August 24). Hot Summer Topic: Economist Explains Why Heat Waves Spur Electricity Blackouts. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 1, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/08/060822173500.htm
Massachusetts Institute Of Technology. "Hot Summer Topic: Economist Explains Why Heat Waves Spur Electricity Blackouts." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/08/060822173500.htm (accessed April 1, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Matter & Energy News

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

7-Year-Old Girl Gets 3-D Printed 'robohand'

7-Year-Old Girl Gets 3-D Printed 'robohand'

AP (Mar. 31, 2015) Although she never had much interest in prosthetic limbs before, Faith Lennox couldn&apos;t wait to slip on her new robohand. The 7-year-old, who lost part of her left arm when she was a baby, grabbed it as soon as it came off a 3-D printer. (March 31) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Dutch Architects Show Off 3D House-Building Prowess

Dutch Architects Show Off 3D House-Building Prowess

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Mar. 31, 2015) Dutch architects are constructing a 3D-printed canal-side home, which they hope will spark an environmental revolution in the house-building industry. Jim Drury reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Solar Plane Stops in China

Solar Plane Stops in China

Reuters - News Video Online (Mar. 31, 2015) Solar Impulse 2 stops over in China&apos;s Chonqing, completing the fifth leg in its bid to become the first solar powered plane to travel around the globe. Rough Cut (no reporter narration). Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Solar Impulse Lands in China After 20-Hour Flight from Myanmar

Solar Impulse Lands in China After 20-Hour Flight from Myanmar

AFP (Mar. 31, 2015) Solar Impulse 2 lands in China, the world&apos;s biggest carbon emitter, completing the fifth leg of its landmark global circumnavigation powered solely by the sun. Duration: 00:55 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Space & Time

Matter & Energy

Computers & Math

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins