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Published on August 12th, 2012 | by Chelsea


How to Achieve More Reliable Electricity: A Three-Pronged Approach

August 12th, 2012 by  

Annoyed when you have to reset the coffee pot clock? Infuriated when your power goes out for hours (or days) on end during the hottest months of the year? Confused why downed power lines miles away from your house leave you and your neighbors without electricity? Well, Think Progress bloggers Richard Caperton and Adam James have explained what causes frequent and/or mass power outages — and better yet, how we can avoid such inconveniences in the future.

Spoiler alert: Three is the magic number for these guest bloggers. Caperton and James focus on three solutions — smart meters; decentralized sources of power; and more utilities crews. To carry out these three solutions, Caperton and James outline what utilities companies, the government, and consumers should do. (And each entity is also given three suggestions on how to go about improving electricity reliability.)

Smart Meters; Decentralized Power Supplies; More Utilities Crews

When storms, trees, accidents, or over-stressed power grids cause outages, it can be like a needle in a haystack for utilities companies to ferret out exactly where the damage lies. Enter smart meters. When telecommunications are down, customers can rest assured that power companies can still receive information about the location of damage.

Caperton and James argue that damage is inevitable, but widespread outages can be avoided by decentralizing power supplies. If one humongous power plant is responsible for supplying a vast swatch of customers, then one downed tree is a headache for millions. And to speed up repairs, Caperton and James suggest a larger pool of utilities crews so multiple can be dispatched. (An added bonus is job creation.)


Utilities companies should be following tree trimming requirements diligently to prevent damage to existing lines, and putting new lines underground to completely avoid such issues in the future. To pacify customer frustration, utility companies need to communicate clearly with customers about service interruptions and repair schedules — no one wants to be left in the dark (pun intended) about their power source. Caperton and James urge utility companies to embrace new technologies as a way to prevent damage and increase efficiency.


The government should enforce industry regulations and compliance to ensure utility companies aren’t endangering workers, ripping off consumers, or wrecking the environment. Caperton and James also note that the government should act as an industry partner by financially incentivizing the implementation of new technologies and increasing funding for educational programs at community colleges and trade schools for future utilities workers.


Caperton and James recognize that most of us don’t celebrate price increases in our utilities bills, but supporting technology — and the costs associated with it — makes our lives better. And speaking of technology, investing in private improvements, like rooftop solar panels, can ease strained power grids. Those renewable energies that we invest in now will also combat climate change in general, which is the overarching issue at hand.

Read the full article referenced above here for more, paying special attention to a cool fact about average minutes of power outages in Germany and Japan compared to the U.S. It’s certain to impress at your next cocktail party.

Source: Think Progress
Image: Martin Muránsky via Shutterstock

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About the Author

is a former newspaper reporter who has spent the past few years teaching English in Poland, Finland and Japan. When she wasn't teaching or writing, Chelsea was traveling Europe and Asia, sampling spicy street food along the way.

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