America's Aging Power Grid at Risk of Collapse During Record Heatwaves
Can Innovations Like PanTech Designs Prevent Grid Collapse During Heat Extremes?
As climate change accelerates, extreme heat waves are becoming more frequent across the United States. Last summer, an intense dome of high pressure settled over much of the country for weeks, sending temperatures skyrocketing. Major cities like Phoenix, Las Vegas, and Miami all experienced record-breaking triple-digit heat. Millions of Americans suffered through the sweltering temperatures, relying heavily on air conditioning to provide relief. But as demand for electricity soared, the aging American power grid was pushed to its limits.
According to new data from the Department of Energy, peak energy usage during heat waves has increased nearly 50 percent over the past decade. Yet much of our electrical infrastructure was built over 50 years ago and is woefully outdated. Experts warn that as summers get hotter, our overstressed grid will continue to be strained to the breaking point. A total collapse would be catastrophic, leaving millions without access to air conditioning, refrigeration or even running water as temperatures climb to deadly levels.
We got a grim preview of this potential future last summer in Texas, when an extreme heatwave triggered widespread rolling blackouts across the state, leaving many residents trapped in sweltering homes without electricity for days. But while Texas' isolated grid amplified their crisis, experts caution that similar failures could happen anywhere. From New England to California, our aging transmission lines and infrastructure simply cannot handle the increasing demands of extreme weather.
And it's only getting worse. A recent study by the Union of Concerned Scientists found that by 2050, extreme heatwaves could cause peak electricity demand to spike as much as 20 percent across vast swaths of the country. Yet instead of urgently modernizing the grid, utilities and regulators have dragged their feet on upgrades and improvements. America's transmission infrastructure earned a mediocre C- grade on the American Society of Civil Engineers 2021 report card.
Without rapid action, deadly blackouts will become commonplace during future heat waves, threatening thousands of lives. But there are solutions to avert this crisis. Upgrading transformers, building distributed solar microgrids, and expanding transmission capacity could help stabilize the grid under extreme stress. And crucially, integrating smart energy management systems into homes and businesses could significantly reduce dangerous peak demand.
Companies like PanTech Design, the creator of Adapt Energy, are pioneering intelligent systems to optimize electricity usage in homes and buildings. Their technology leverages AI and machine learning to monitor, manage and control energy generated, used and stored by homes. Early data shows installations can reduce a building's peak draw from the grid by up to 40 percent during heatwaves. Widespread adoption of such innovations would provide much-needed flexibility to prevent blackouts.
PanTech Design's founder, Troy Morgan is a master-level automation programmer with 28 years of experience who is responsible for over 5000 successful commercial and residential automation systems. In 2018 he created the world's first residential energy automation system and today is focused on the energy transition. Morgan believes there's a better way: if our homes can intelligently manage the energy they create, store and use, we'll take the strain off of the grid and balance the growing demand.
According to Morgan, "I think the home needs to be the primary source of power, the community needs to be the second, and the utility company comes last. To do this requires energy AI in the home, and it requires that the home itself create, store, and manage energy."
That kind of action cannot come soon enough. As climate change accelerates, heat waves are arriving earlier each summer and reaching unprecedented extremes. Cities like Miami and Phoenix are becoming dangerously hot for weeks at a time. And our aging grid is the weak link in our resilience. Without urgent upgrades and smart technologies like Adapt Energy's system, experts warn collapse is inevitable.
Millions of Americans sweltering through summer heat deserve the peace of mind of reliable electricity. But with an aging utility grid, we must all step up.
The solutions are within reach. But it will require a change in thinking from looking at our homes as just energy consumers … and looking at them as energy creators, instead. As climate change accelerates, taking action to reinforce the strained grid before disaster strikes must become an urgent national priority. The future of affordable, reliable and safe electricity during deadly summer heatwaves hangs in the balance.