Severe weather, utility spending, and the long-term reliability of the U.S. power system
There has been a limited amount of peer-reviewed literature on long-term trends in electricity reliability including the underlying factors that impact reliability across the United States. In this analysis, we considered up to 16 years of data from 203 U S. utilities—representing about 70% of electricity sales. Annual frequency of interruptions for an average customer—at the regional and U.S. national-level—has generally decreased over this timeframe. But we do not find that there is a statistically significant trend in the annual duration of interruptions for an average customer. We find that more explicit measures of severe weather are correlated with reliability. We are able to explain 7% and 16% of past variation in the reliability metrics system average interruption duration and frequency indices, respectively, is due to severe weather—a significant improvement over earlier studies. We find that current year spending by utilities is correlated with worse reliability and that cumulative spending over the preceding three years is correlated with better reliability. Finally, we demonstrate that using a statistical instrument to represent the annual frequency of interruptions for an average customer can greatly improve analysis of trends in the annual duration of interruptions for an average customer.