An increase in severe weather has led to a doubling of major power outages across the country in the past decade, according to a new report from a climate change research group.
American Electric Power, with its 11-state footprint and largely rural service territory, has been affected as much or more than any other utility. It had the most major outages, 42, of any utility, and it ranked fourth in the number of customers affected by major outages, 6.6 million.
The study from Climate Central says that severe weather caused 80 percent of the major outages from 2003 to 2013. A major outage is defined as one that affects at least 50,000 people or interrupts at least 300 megawatts.
The number of major outages was double the number during the prior 10-year period, though the author notes that reporting requirements have improved, which may be driving some of the increase.
“Climate change is causing an increase in many types of extreme weather,” the report says. “ Heat waves are hotter, heavy rain events are heavier, and winter storms have increased in both frequency and intensity. To date, these kinds of severe weather are among the leading causes of large-scale power outages in the United States.”
Michigan had the most major outages with 71, followed by Texas with 57 and Ohio with 54.
AEP has a presence in each of those states. Its 11 states are more than any other utility in the report.
“(A)lmost any storm system that moves across the country is going to hit part of AEP’s service area,” said AEP spokeswoman Tammy Ridout.
She noted that the company has spent $1.2 billion since 2009 to make its Ohio systems more reliable. This includes $310 million to do additional tree-trimming, which can help prevent outages caused when tree branches fall on utility lines during storms.
Climate Central, based in New Jersey, describes itself as an independent research group that reports on climate change.
By Dan Gearino - The Columbus Dispatch, Ohio (MCT)
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