“No Time to Die”
The Future of Our Electric World
Avi Schnurr, CEO, EIS Council
The human world we inhabit is electric, and the power grid is its circulatory system, bringing the nutrients and energy it needs to keep it – and all of us – alive. Yet it would take no time at all for our electric world to die.
And us with it.
In 2003, it took just three minutes for 50 million people to lose power in the US Northeast, for hours or even days. In a Black Sky event, if we are not prepared, national power grids could shut down without the resources they need to come back to life – putting an end to our civilization.
Unfortunately, this is not a hyperbole but a simple fact. Restarting after a complete grid blackout (a process called blackstart) is not easy, and the necessary blackstart resources are in decline. The ongoing transformation of the grid to renewables, while essential for our future, is taking place without the policy guidance that could ensure our future grid will have the resilience it needs for restart after a catastrophic event.
Power companies are doing what they can to build critical infrastructure resilience. But legislative and regulatory mandates are forcing them to carry the green transformation forward in a blackstart policy vacuum. In other words, without the flexibility to make it a resilient evolution.
Many power companies today find they have little choice but to make a change and shift toward renewables without investing in the bone and muscle a greener grid will need to ride through the growing disasters and catastrophes the future will inevitably bring us.
And yes, legislators and regulators are also doing their best to respond to the national and global mood of urgency that underlines the green transformation at a time when budgets are tight.
The problem, as always, is simply human nature. We want quick, simple, and painless solutions to our problems – and when it comes to building electric resilience, quick and simple won’t cut it.
That, my friends, is the culprit. It is our fundamental human nature that is preventing us from seeing the need to invest in strengthening our infrastructures until disaster strikes. We humans much prefer to wait until we’re hit by a disaster, at least a few times, to build the motivation it takes to invest in resilience.
But, of course, there’s a problem with this approach. When this disaster strikes, if we don’t invest in advance, there won’t be another chance. If the resources and tools for blackstart aren’t there, there will be no grid restart.
Unlike in video games, there will be no 2nd or 3rd life.
There is a solution, but it’s not going to be easy.
All of us will need to take on the most difficult challenge of all: change human nature. We’ll need to work on ourselves, our personal motivation, and our commitment, as well as work together across sectors (private and corporate) and local, state, national, and international boundaries to encourage the development of a resilient grid. This means bringing together political and corporate leaders, scientists, and each of us in our own circles.
And we need to begin now before we have the all-too-brief “advantage” of 20:20 hindsight.
We need, in short, to choose life.
Want to learn more? Join our “it’s not easy being green” discussion on November 3, 2022, at 11:00 EDT.
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