Originally published on the ECOreport.
On any given day, half a million North Americans go through a blackout that lasts 2 to 4 hours. The US economy loses $150 billion a year through these incidents. Meanwhile, on the other side of the Atlantic, the average Western European loses minutes, rather than hours, through annual power loses. The average German hasn’t experienced 20 minutes of per customer annual power losses for years and, as of 2014, German outages are 12 minutes per customer per year.
Less Than 12 Minutes
According to the German Association for Electrical, Electronic and Information Technologies, Verband der Elektrotechnik (VDE), the average consumer’s annual power outages “has fallen below twelve minutes.”
The average power consumer in Germany can expect to experience no more than 2.4 power cuts over a ten-year period.
Why Does NA Have So Many Blackouts?
Someone from Duke Energy emailed the ECOreport to say that in the US “most electric service is above ground covering vast expanses, and weather frequently knocks down lines and disrupts service. In most of the developed world, reliability is almost never impacted by generation disruptions.”
This is basically true, though there are above ground transmission lines in Germany and US cities that bury their power lines in the ground.
A far more penetrating analysis appeared in the National Geographic last year. According to a senior member of IEEE (Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineers), for the past 18 years the infrastructure’s depreciation has exceeded “the actual investment and steps toward upgrading the current grid to a smart grid have not been taken.”
European Investments In The Grid
A 2014 report from the European Commission describes how European nations invested more than €3.15 billion developing a smart grid technologies since 2002. This includes “deploying a range of leading-edge transformers across a number of LV and MV circuits, together with use of Capacitors, VAR control devices, and electronic boosters which when optimised together will lead to reduced losses from the power system.”
Germany leads Europe’s development of these technologies and its electrical grid has long been recognized as the most secure in Europe. It is not surprising to learn that Germany broke the 12 minute per year of downtime barrier.
Photo Credits: Frankfurt Skyline by Carsten Frenzl via Flickr (CC BY SA, 2.0 License); Dramatic Transmission Tower (taken in Germany on August 23, 2014) by Sebastian Appelt via Flickr (CC BY SA, 2.0 License); Minutes Lost per customer in 2012 (Click on image to enlarge) – Courtesy Germany Trade & Invest
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