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To Avoid a Repeat of Blackouts, Researcher Suggests Diversifying

Medium – Big Idea: Thousands of Californians suffered blackouts this fall, but research offers steps for utilities to prevent similar outages in the future. “In October and November, more than 800,000 Californians lost power, when Pacific Gas & Electric turned off transmission lines to prevent wildfires. In 2011, 54 Japanese nuclear plants were closed, after a tsunami caused three of them to melt down. These two events had something in common, says Stathis Tompaidis, professor of Information, Risk, and Operations Management at Texas McCombs. They were dependent outages: several units going down at the same time, from the same root cause, due to being interconnected. Electric grids are frequently set up in ways that lead to interconnected shutdowns. The result, as Californians learned, is that grids are not as reliable as they think. In a new paper, Tompaidis and his co-authors — Vishwakant Malladi from the Indian School of Business and Rafael Mendoza-Arriaga from discretionary fund manager Man GLG — measured the odds of electric grids suffering simultaneous outages. Through the use of more diverse fuel sources and incentives, massive blackouts — like the ones in California — could be prevented…”

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