Univer­sity study warns of power cuts

DEMM Engineering & Manufacturing - - MAINTENANCE MATTERS -

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

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