May 1, 2024 - News

Mapped: Georgia's extreme weather and power outages

Share of major power outages attributed to extreme weather
Data: Climate Central via U.S. Department of Energy; Note: Major power outages affect at least 50k customers or interrupt service of 300 megawatts or more; Outage events can cross state lines; Map: Kavya Beheraj/Axios

According to a new analysis, Georgia and other states in the South and Southeast have experienced the most extreme weather-related power outages during the past two decades.

Why it matters: The electrical grid is under increasing strain as climate change raises the frequency and severity of extreme weather events, from heat waves to wildfires.

  • Outages, and lengthy restore times, can cost the economy billions of dollars and lead to loss of life.

The big picture: Extreme weather accounted for about 80% of all major U.S. power outages from 2000 to 2023, the nonprofit research and communications group Climate Central reports.

  • Such outages are defined as affecting at least 50,000 homes or businesses or cutting service of at least 300 megawatts.

The intrigue: Wildfires and heat waves, two of the hazards most clearly linked to human-caused climate change, are becoming more problematic, Climate Central found.

  • Extreme heat accounts for a smaller share of outages but creates acute public health hazards when it does occur. Researchers consider Atlanta particularly at risk for extreme heat and stormwater flooding.

Zoom in: Atlanta is at higher risk for extreme heat and heat-related illnesses as the climate warms.

  • Georgia is projected to see the fifth-highest increase in cooling costs by 2053, and the sixth-highest increase in state CO2 emissions due to that increased AC usage, according to a 2022 analysis by the nonprofit First Street Foundation.

Between the lines: The states with the most reported weather-related large power outages during the 23-year time frame were California, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio and Texas.

  • Georgia reported 84 outages during that time frame, 83 of which were attributed to severe weather.

What they're saying: "Climate Central sees the increase in power outages as being related to the increase in extreme weather," said Jen Brady, a researcher at Climate Central and main author of the report.

  • She noted there were 15 heat-related major outages from 2000 to 2009; that number rose to 32 from 2014–2023.
  • "As not only the intensity of weather events continues to increase, but also the stress on the system from things like increased cooling demand. It is likely that weather-related power outages will continue to increase, as well across the country," she said.
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