The US’ outdated electrical grid is not equipped to handle rising demands for renewable energy or the “new normal” threats of extreme weather and cyberattacks. This is according to energy security watchdog, SAFE, whose Grid Security Project found that problems like blackouts and shortages are becoming increasingly common. Without updates to both policy and infrastructure, SAFE warns, these issues are only likely to get worse.
In a new report, SAFE points to events like the deadly 2021 power crisis in Texas, when millions of people were left without electricity during a winter storm, and a 2022 shooting at a North Carolina substation that led to outages for more than 40,000 people. While instances like these may once have been considered rare events, they’re unfortunately becoming par for the course. The report also highlights sophisticated cyberattacks abroad, like the historic hack into Ukraine’s power grid in 2015, as examples of what the US grid could find itself up against.
“Extreme weather events, cyber espionage and domestic terror attacks, combined with increasing demand on aging infrastructure have turned the occasional power failure into alarmingly common events in cities across the United States,” said Thomas Coleman, executive director of SAFE’s Grid Security Project, in a statement published alongside the report.
The rapid transition away from fossil fuels will only add to the strain. Electric vehicles, which draw directly from the grid, have seen exponential adoption in recent years, and the system is still limited in its capacity to deliver energy from renewable sources like wind and solar to populated areas. The current infrastructure won’t be able to reliably keep up with greater energy generation and transmission needs.
According to SAFE, “the progeny of the infrastructure on which our great-grandparents once relied is increasingly inadequate to serve as the foundation of today’s modern economy.” In other words, the grid needs updating, and fast.