- A new report on the state of commercial and industrial (C&I) power reliability reveals a "dramatic" increase in outages, particularly in short-term interruptions which utilities may not be required to track or report to regulators.
- The "2021 State of Commercial and Industrial Power Reliability Report," prepared by S&C Electric Company and business consultant Frost & Sullivan, found the number of companies affected by power outages lasting less than 5 minutes jumped from 20% to 40% from 2019 to 2020. And 44% of companies reported they lost power monthly or more frequently, double the amount of outages that occurred in 2019."
- Power quality is "consistently getting worse," Paul Cicio, president and CEO of the Industrial Energy Consumers of America, said in an email. The group blames intermittent renewable power and the decline of baseload generation.
There is debate over the cause of rising C&I outages, but not over the need to modernize the United States' electric grid.
"The energy transition does not cause power outages," Gregory Wetstone, president and CEO of the American Council on Renewable Energy, said in an email. The United States has reliably integrated more than 250,000 MW of renewable energy into the nation's bulk-power system, he added.
"The reality is that fossil fuel-driven climate change has caused the increasingly common extreme weather events that tax our outdated grid infrastructure," Wetstone said. "The only way to sustainably maintain grid reliability is to upgrade our grid and transition to the renewable energy economy Americans want and our climate demands."
According to Cicio, however, large industrial companies report a consistent decline in power quality, potentially costing them millions of dollars.
The problem, he said, is "increased dependency upon renewable energy and less base load power." The solution? "Short term, more baseload power sources. Long term, technology solutions that will address the intermittency of renewable energy."
Companies may also look to develop their own resources if power quality does not improve, said Cicio. "Increasing problems with power quality will likely drive them to more self generation," he said.
The new report on C&I power surveyed 253 companies with average yearly revenues of $75 million. Since the 2017 survey, the report said, there has been "clear and consistent evidence that energy reliability is not improving for C&I companies and has even worsened in some ways."
According to 22% of survey respondents, a typical outage can cost $100,000 or more. And most of those respondents said they experienced monthly outages, resulting in an annual loss of $1.2 million.
"It's evident power outages have been a constant pain point for C&I companies over the last four years, and these businesses are placing an even greater importance on improved power reliability and resilience," Brian Levite, S&C regulatory affairs director, said in a statement.
The survey also revealed many companies do not feel they have adequate communication with their utility. Almost a third of respondents said they "do not feel they are given the opportunity to discuss their reliability concerns with their utilities," according to the report.
And many utilities do not include "momentary" outages in their standard reliability metric reporting, according to the report, representing a disconnect between utilities' priorities and customers' needs.
"Without tracking and reporting momentary outages, utilities are unlikely to effectively implement strategies to reduce these outages, and their impact on C&I customers will continue to increase," the report said.
The Edison Electric Institute, which represents investor-owned utilities, did not respond to requests for comment on the report.