University study warns of power cuts
Demands of high-powered electrical appliances, a growing world population and inadequate investment in the power sector will create more frequent power blackouts according to academic research.
In their paper ‘Blackouts: a sociology of electrical power failure’, Steve Matthewman, associate professor of Sociology at the University of Auckland, and Hugh Byrd, Professor of Architecture at the University of Lincoln in the UK , says today’s occasional power failures are mere dress rehearsals for the future.
They argue that they will occur with greater frequency and increased severity and that the West needs to abandon the idea of uninterrupted electricity supply.
According to the study, power cuts will become more regular around the globe as electrical supply becomes increasingly vulnerable and demand for technology continues to grow at an unprecedented rate.
The report outlines how Auckland’s CBD was crippled with power cuts for five weeks in 1998. Generators became a common site in the city centre as shops and business struggled to remain open.
Also, despite being blessed with about an 80 per cent renewable energy supply, with climate change there is predicted to be less rain and less snow in temperate regions, both of which will have negative impacts on hydroelectricity that we depend on.
“Infrastructural investment across Europe and the USA has been poor, and our power generation systems are more fragile than most people think,” Professor Matthewman says.
The American Society of Civil Engineers warns that US generation systems could collapse by 2020 without $100bn of new investment in power stations.
The report says guaranteed electrical power is under threat because of resource constraint, with the depletion of fossil fuel reserves, and the transient nature of renewable energy sources.
The Western world also relies on ageing systems; for example, almost three quarters of American transmission lines are more than 25 years old.
The full paper was published by the Social Space Scientific Journal, and can be accessed at: http://goo.gl/et9vckw