Storms strain Ohio’s electric grid, and climate change could make it worse – Energy News Network

by | Apr 26, 2022 | Energy

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Major weather events accounted for more than a third of the time Ohio customers of regulated electric utilities went without power last year, according to an Energy News Network review of data filed with state regulators.

Utility reports filed at the end of March listed 16 calendar days in 2021 with major outage events linked to wind or thunderstorms. All told, more than 900,000 Ohio utility customers lost power during major weather-related outages last year.

Companies say they’re taking steps to prevent outages. Yet some critics question whether utilities are doing enough to prepare the state’s power grid for a warmer and wetter world. It’s unclear how climate change will affect the frequency or intensity of tornadoes and severe thunderstorms. However, climate experts predict Ohio will see more days with conditions that often set the stage for storms.

What utilities’ reports show

Utilities file outage reports each year so regulators can judge whether utilities are meeting reliability standards. State regulators can penalize utilities if outages exceed certain limits.

Outages that count toward companies’ performance result from things like equipment failure and damage to infrastructure due to animals, falling tree branches, traffic accidents and so on. Outages from less extensive weather interruptions are also included. Together, those outages generally make up the bulk of electric service interruptions.

When calculating utilities’ performance, the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio lets companies exclude major outage events. By definition, major outage events are outliers that last longer and don’t reflect the utilities’ normal performance.

Major weather-related outages account for most long-duration events, sometimes requiring several days to restore power for all customers. On Dec. 11, for example, the state was blasted with wind gusts over 50 mph and at least one tornado, leaving more than …

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