(CNN) — New York’s Staten Island was broiling under a life-threatening heat wave and borough President James Molinaro was seriously concerned about the area’s Little League baseball players.
It was last July’s Eastern heat wave and Consolidated Edison was responding to scattered power outages as electricity usage neared record highs.
So, authorities followed Molinaro’s suggestion to cancel that night’s Little League games, which were to be played under electricity-sucking stadium lights.
“Number one, it was a danger to the children that were playing out there in that heat, and secondly it would save electricity that people would need for air conditioning in their homes,” said Molinaro, who’d been forced to sleep at his office that night because of a blackout in his own neighborhood.
Throughout New York City, about 52,000 of ConEd’s 3.2 million customers lost power during the heat wave. Triple-digit temperatures forced residents like 77 year-old Rui Zhi Chen, to seek shelter at one of the city’s 400 emergency cooling centers. “It felt like an oven in my home and on the street,” Chen said.
Should Americans view these kinds of scenarios as extraordinary circumstances — or a warning sign of a darker future?
Experts on the nation’s electricity system point to a frighteningly steep increase in non-disaster-related outages affecting at least 50,000 consumers.
During the past two decades, such blackouts have increased 124 percent — up from 41 blackouts between 1991 and 1995, to 92 between 2001 and 2005, according to research at the University of Minnesota.
In the most recently analyzed data available, utilities reported 36 such outages in 2006 alone.
“It’s hard to imagine how anyone could believe that — in the United States — we should learn to cope with blackouts,” said University of Minnesota Professor Massoud Amin, a leading expert on the U.S. electricity grid.
Amin supports construction of a nationwide “smart grid” that would avert blackouts and save billions of dollars in wasted electricity.
In a nutshell, a smart grid is an automated electricity system that improves the reliability, security and efficiency of electric power. It more easily connects with new energy sources, such as wind and solar, and is designed to charge electric vehicles and control home appliances via a so-called “smart” devices.
Read more at CNN
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