Power outages are expensive for power companies and end users. Calculating the actual cost is difficult. Losses to the power company in profit, manpower, and equipment repairs are expensive, but are only a small portion of actual losses due to power disruptions. Community losses include disruptions to manufacturing, loss of worker productivity, inventory losses, and loss of sales. Potentially more damaging is the loss to future revenues for affected businesses due to loss of consumer confidence.
Some businesses are more vulnerable to loss than others. Industries built around perishable products, including food and pharmaceuticals, are particularly vulnerable. But manufacturers, healthcare providers, financial service companies, and retail stores all experience losses during even short power disruptions. The total cost of a power blackout depends on the customer mix in the area, the timing and duration of the outage, or how quickly the power is restored.
What is the Impact of Power Outages on the Economy and Businesses?
For the business and services community, a power outage is costly. Most businesses cannot function long without a steady source of power. Outages effect companies in various ways, including:
- Loss of production capability and product loss
- Lost customers and revenue due to computer outages and sales abilities
- Unsold inventory
- Lost employee productivity and increased hours required to recover
- Computer problems resulting in computer data losses
- Damage to equipment due to electrical outages and surges
How do Power Outages Affect Hospitals and Healthcare?
The medical industry is highly dependent on a steady supply of power to fuel the technology and equipment that delivers lifesaving treatments and medical monitoring. Power surges, blackouts, or brownouts can cause a breakdown in technology and disrupt lifesaving care for patients.
Hospitals have back-up power or generators and procedures in place to keep patients safe and allow medical care to continue, but these systems are often unreliable. Additionally, power outages can have unexpected consequences. For example, Orlando Health Facilities experienced computer malfunctions due to a power issue. Multiple hospitals experienced computer system outages. Fortunately, downtime procedures were in place to handle the event. But equipment breakdowns can threaten patient care and take valuable time and resources to repair.
What a Power Outage Could Mean to your Family
For the average household, a power outage may cause inconveniences as well as more serious effects. Losses are measured in lost time, money, and a human cost. A blackout may:
- Prevent the use of vital medical devices, risking the lives of family members
- Cause disruptions in communications, water, and delivery of other utilities
- Disrupt transportation
- Close retail businesses, grocery stores, gas stations, banks, ATMs, and other essential services
- Cause food spoilage
- Result in water contamination
- Cause lost time at work
- Cause accidents within the home or in the community
A loss in power is very difficult for most families. The elderly and sick are hit hardest, but in extreme cold or heat, power becomes a basic necessity for everyone. Make sure your family is prepared.
Why Does Energy Reliability Matter?
Energy reliability has become an important factor is supporting our way of life. It affects the economy of our nation and our daily lives. We need a reliable supply of power to maintain our society, keep businesses open, and processes running smoothly. Disruption of power has cascading effects on families, business, manufacturing, and resources.
Frequency of Outages and How to Reduce Them
Technology is advancing rapidly in the United States, but the nation’s power grid is aging, and power outages are increasing at a rate of two percent per year. Natural disasters like tornados and hurricanes cause many of the outages, but non-disaster related power outages are on the rise as well.
The following strategies have been used in an attempt to reduce the frequency of power outages, but the total number of blackout events was not significantly reduced:
- Increase number of failures required before a cascading blackout
- Increase the maximum load of individual power lines
- A combination of increasing the number of failures required and increasing the maximum load on power lines
- Increase excess power available to the grid
- Businesses maintain backup power grids or generators to protect their interests
Another solution is for power and power distribution companies to use Outage Management Systems to keep power distribution networks running efficiently. By mapping and monitoring every aspect of the distribution system, problems can be detected early or avoided altogether. This situational awareness also results in the rapid and organized deployments of assets and personnel to shorten the downtime. Every minute counts in limiting the economical and social impacts of power outages.