May 3, 2024 - News

Most major power outages in Arkansas related to extreme weather

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

Almost 91% of the 65 major power outages in Arkansas for the past two decades were related to extreme weather, according to a new analysis.

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.

Zoom in: Long-duration outages that most frequently hit socially and medically vulnerable populations tended to occur in Arkansas, Louisiana and Michigan, the nonprofit research and communications group Climate Central reports.

  • The South and Southeast experienced the most extreme weather-related power outages.

The big picture Extreme weather accounted for about 80% of all major U.S. power outages from 2000 to 2023.

  • Such outages are defined as affecting at least 50,000 homes or businesses, or cutting service of at least 300 megawatts.
  • The majority of weather-related outages are due to severe weather like severe thunderstorms, followed by winter weather and tropical storms and hurricanes.
  • The report notes hurricanes can cause long-lasting outages, accounting for most of these types of outages through 2022.

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.

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

What's next: With the increasing recognition that America's power capacity has to grow to support generative AI and other high-tech applications, utilities are rethinking their architecture and upgrades schedule.

  • In turn, this may lead to innovations that harden the grid against extreme weather events.

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