July 29, 2021

As temperatures rise and COVID lingers, US residents face increased risk of blackouts: Experts

Even before the global coronavirus pandemic forced people to stay inside and businesses to close in a largely unprecedented way, summer months strained electrical grids. The oppressive heat forces residential and commercial units alike to crank up the air conditioning, causing a significant increase in power usage and a greater likelihood of a blackout.

But now, with a record number of people working from home, combined with high unemployment amid the summer heat here in the U.S., there could be a heightened risk of power outages, experts say, despite the overall decrease in power consumption across the country.

At issue are residential grids that are not designed for the sustained increase in power demand. The issue was examined in a report by the Earth Institute at Columbia University, which focused on electricity usage in hundreds of Manhattan apartments in April.

Overall, weekday electricity use in those apartments increased by 7% after New York City’s stay-at-home order from March 30 – April 5. However, when the study looked at “work” hours, the departure was more pronounced. From 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, the report said there was a 23% increase in “average apartment-level electricity consumption.”

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