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July 2013 Policy Study, Number 13-5


Electricity – Make It, Use It – 24/7/365

Review of Electrical Grid Issues


Impact of Losing Power



Electrical infrastructure problems result in economic losses to both businesses and households, estimated in the billions of dollars. Potential problems include more expensive power costs, damages from unreliability or power surges, and costs caused by the use of older technologies and processes.


The technologies and computers we use every day require all three aspects of the system to function at the highest possible level, 24/7/365.


According to Massoud Amin, a University of Minnesota researcher, in the years from 2005 to 2009 there were “349 power outages” that impacted “at least 50,000” people. In comparison, between 2000 and 2004 there were only 149 such outages, demonstrating the growing problems with outages.[14] These outages were separate from unusual, severe-weather-related events.


Businesses and employees in commercial or retail sectors are often directly impacted by electrical outages. Often these businesses do not have backup generators. Many of these workers are hourly and their incomes can be most affected if a business must close and they are sent home. At the same time, consumer spending at these businesses will be impacted if loss of electricity forces them to close.


According to the ASCE report, these losses will be in the hundreds of billions of dollars by 2020 and impact over 500,000 jobs nationwide.[15] The cost to individual households is estimated at $3,100 per year in disposable personal income, aggregating to over $2.4 trillion in total consumer spending between now and 2020.


Importantly the Internet, with 244 million U.S. users and their businesses, is immediately and directly affected by power outages. Data centers must stay on-line 24/7/365. As a result of grid concerns some companies and data centers, such as BMW, Facebook, and Google have begun moving operations overseas to cool climate countries such as Iceland, Sweden, and Finland, and focusing on renewable energy sources available there.[16]




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