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Tighter Regional Regulation Needed of Power Grids

That is the unanimous conclusion of experts on the great 2003 blackout

4 min read

Not infrequently, major breakdowns of human systems, or natural disasters aggravated by patterns of human activity, give rise to heated debate about causes and implications that just go on and on. Whether it is a major reactor failure or a mudslide that takes a dreadful human toll because of unchecked settlement, experts characteristically are at each others' throats, literally before the toxic dust has settled.

Yet this has not been the case with the blackout that began the afternoon of 14 August and within hours darkened cities from New York to Detroit and Toronto. What is striking here is the similarity of the diagnoses and the cures put forth by the qualified groups that have weighed in with well-formulated opinions so far.

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This photograph shows a car with the words “We Drive Solar” on the door, connected to a charging station. A windmill can be seen in the background.

The Dutch city of Utrecht is embracing vehicle-to-grid technology, an example of which is shown here—an EV connected to a bidirectional charger. The historic Rijn en Zon windmill provides a fitting background for this scene.

We Drive Solar

Hundreds of charging stations for electric vehicles dot Utrecht’s urban landscape in the Netherlands like little electric mushrooms. Unlike those you may have grown accustomed to seeing, many of these stations don’t just charge electric cars—they can also send power from vehicle batteries to the local utility grid for use by homes and businesses.

Debates over the feasibility and value of such vehicle-to-grid technology go back decades. Those arguments are not yet settled. But big automakers like Volkswagen, Nissan, and Hyundai have moved to produce the kinds of cars that can use such bidirectional chargers—alongside similar vehicle-to-home technology, whereby your car can power your house, say, during a blackout, as promoted by Ford with its new F-150 Lightning. Given the rapid uptake of electric vehicles, many people are thinking hard about how to make the best use of all that rolling battery power.

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