- First, the transmission line losses are increasing because of increased demand and congestion; some areas are prone to T&D losses of up to 15%.
- Second, the overall production efficiency from fuel to end user is around 33% and is continuing to decrease.
- Third, it is more prone to blackouts because of:
- Congestion (which some utilities are trying to address through aiding conservation efforts)*
- Insufficient lines to heavily populated areas
- Problems in maintaining voltage
- Aging equipment that is prone to failure
- Poor maintenance practices
- Poor generation scheduling during stressed conditions
- A generally low level of investment in the grid.
These are not necessarily primary causes of blackouts, but they can cause cascading failures that can increase the magnitude of any outage. This was the case in both the 1996 and the 2003 blackouts. Simply adding more centralized power plants to this will only increase the chances of congestion, and therefore, cascading failures.
(PS- you just got lucky in 2003; you were only 180 miles from the edge of the blackout.)
Because of their distributed nature, renewables can help relieve problems with blackouts and natural disasters. PV (Photo-Voltaics) can also act as a load-leveler on hot summer days when air conditioners are running at full blast. Renewables can also make more of a contribution with high-efficiency storage systems, such as flywheels, compressed air energy systems or thermal energy storage.
The idea for distributed grids and power production is not a new or novel idea. It is endorsed by organizations, such as
* Note: But, actually, avoiding congestion also requires a greater investment in information technology.