India goes dark: climate change vs electricity
Power companies seem to be struggling to keep the power on these days. First there were massive blackouts across the East Coast following the derecho storm in late June. This week brought us the latest in a series of mini-apocalypses: the world’s largest ever loss of power roiled India on July 30th and 31st.
Are these incidents becoming more common? Will they continue to occur relatively frequently in the future?
All signs point to yes. A lot of transmission systems in developed economies are old, and it’s difficult to keep up with expensive investments when the economy is crap. That goes doubly so for emerging markets, if a grid existed in the first place. Increasing demand for energy – particularly in developing countries – will not lighten the load on these systems any time soon.
However, the common thread between these blackouts is easily overlooked. The root cause of both events can be traced back to climate change. We’ve previously discussed the derecho storms here, so I won’t go into that in detail. It suffices to say that climate change = way more crazy weather.
How does this relate to India? The Indian blackout was thought to have been triggered by farmers using more than their allocated amount of power to draw water from irrigation systems. This occurred because this year’s monsoon season has been incredibly dry and is threatening Indian crops in much the same way as those in the Midwest.
Therefore, whether its massive storms with insane wind and lightning, or droughts causing irrigation systems to work overtime, climate change is wreaking havoc with our electricity grids. And it’s only likely to get worse.
What are some lessons that can be learned from all of this?
1) It doesn’t matter where you live. As long as you’re connected to the power grid, you’re vulnerable to these kinds of outages.
2) As always, be prepared. It’s easy to underestimate how much we all depend on electricity to function on a day-to-day basis. Have a plan for what you would do if the power went out for an extended period of time (e.g., longer than 24 hours). This may involve buying a generator if you can afford it. Stocking up on candles, batteries, and alternative power methods are also recommended.
3) Adjust your survival plan based on the season. Power outages are most likely to hit during extreme weather, which usually means summer heat or winter blizzards. Plan accordingly.
4) Practice, practice, practice. If (when) power interruptions hit, use it an excuse to practice your survival skills and run through elements of your survival plan. This will allow you to identify weak spots and correct them before a major disaster occurs.