Assessing Changes in the Reliability of the U.S. Electric Power System
Recent catastrophic weather events, existing and prospective federal and state policies, and growing investments in smart grid technologies have drawn renewed attention to the reliability of the U.S. electric power system. Whether electricity reliability is getting better or worse as a result of these or other factors has become a material issue for public and private decisions affecting the U.S. electric power system.
This study examines the statistical relationship between annual changes in electricity reliability reported by a large cross‐section of U.S. electricity distribution utilities over a period of 13 years, and a broad set of potential explanatory variables including various measures of weather and utility characteristics.
We find statistically significant correlations between the average number of power interruptions experienced annually by a customer and a number of explanatory variables including wind speed, precipitation, lightning strikes, and the number of customers per line mile. We also find statistically significant correlations between the average total duration of power interruptions experienced annually by a customer and wind speed, precipitation, cooling degree‐days, the percentage share of underground transmission and distribution lines. In addition, we find a statistically significant trend in the duration of power interruptions over time—especially when major events are included. This finding suggests that increased severity of major events over time has been the principal contributor to the observed trend.