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Failure is Not an Option for Stressed Power Grids

Aug. 10, 2023
Climate challenges and maintaining reliability now and in the future are the focus at T&D World Live.

Summer 2023 is proving to be another record-setting summer for the U.S. and the world. In mid-July, 90 million Americans across the southern U.S. were under extreme heat warnings from California to South Florida. That same week, thousands of people in western Massachusetts, southwestern New Hampshire and Vermont were dealing with some of the worst flooding ever seen in those areas. And, just to the north, Canada continued to deal with ongoing, record-setting wildfires across the entire country. In fact, the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre reported on July 8 that there were 639 active wildfires, half of which were out of control. On that same day, temperatures hit 100°F in Canada’s Northwest Territories, the highest temperature ever recorded that far north, according to numerous news sources.

People living in countries across the globe, including Europe, China, South America, and South Asia, have dealt with record heat, drought and flooding, too. I’m sure most of you have heard by now that according to NASA, Earth had the hottest June on record, going back to 1850. According to NOAA, July 3, 4 and 5 all consecutively broke records as the Earth’s hottest day since scientists began recording in 1979.

I could go on about extreme weather events, but I won’t, except to say that electric grids worldwide are stressed to the max and failure is not an option. The companies that generate and deliver electricity have, since the industry began, understood the importance of reliable, affordable and safe electricity. For the past two decades most have understood that clean electricity is just as important. Extreme weather that’s causing human misery and financial devastation has surely made believers out of those who have doubted that climate change is real.

Few industries, if any, are impacted more than electric utilities by both extreme weather events and the transition to zero-carbon electricity. Recovering and rebuilding from weather-related destruction is expensive. Creating, operating and maintaining an electricity delivery system that is more resilient and at the same time able to add clean, more intermittent and grid-edge (distributed) electricity is expensive, and transitioning generation fleets, whether utility-owned or independently-owned, to no carbon also is expensive. In addition, it’s almost impossible to prioritize these initiatives or to say that one is more important than the other. It’s imperative for the electricity industry to decarbonize and at the same time increase the amount of clean electricity available to other industries so those industries can also decarbonize. The goal is to not only slow down climate change, but lower the earth’s temperature and hopefully in turn, mitigate extreme weather events. The industry has talked about this for years, but it’s past time to act.

For 75 years, T&D World has been at the forefront of bringing its audience stories about the latest technologies and solutions needed to keep electricity reliable, affordable, safe and, more recently, clean. Creating a magazine and various types of digital content to help utilities solve big challenges has been the brand's contribution to the industry for years. During the COVID 19 years, we expanded our offerings to include online events, and last year we launched our live event: T&D World Conference & Exhibition, or what we call T&D World Live. We’re proud of all our content offerings and believe all are needed. We know, however, that there’s no substitute for face-to-face events when it comes to discussing and solving big challenges...the type the industry faces now.

I, therefore, want to use the rest of this space to tell you about some of the content and opportunities that will be available at T&D World Live in September 2023. It’s no coincidence that our cover story features Frankie McDermott, Chief Operating Officer at Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD), T&D World Live’s host utility. As you will see when you read the story, SMUD has faced some major weather-related challenges recently and, thanks to some of its latest initiatives, the utility restored 90% of the nearly 600,000 customers with power interruptions within 24 hours. In addition, you’ll learn a lot about how SMUD is attacking what McDermott believes is SMUD’s and the industry’s biggest challenge: climate change and its impacts on utilities and their customers. McDermott shares about SMUDs best practices in the article, but as I mentioned, there is no substitute for hearing about SMUD’s initiatives live — not only from McDermott, but from many other SMUD employees. McDermott is a keynote speaker, and several other SMUD experts are scheduled to speak in various conference sessions.

In many ways, California utilities are leading the way when it comes to tackling climate change and extreme weather events. They are dealing not only with extreme climate-related issues, but California legislators have also enacted some of the most aggressive zero carbon laws in the world.  In addition to SMUD, other California utilities, including Pacific Gas and Electric and Southern California Edison, have several speakers on the program who will cover wildfire mitigation, modeling climate impacts, grid modernization and a lot more. T&D World Live will feature more than just what’s happening in California, though. Utilities from all over the country, and some from outside the U.S., are scheduled to speak at this year’s event. If you want to know what other utilities are doing to solve challenges and create a low or no carbon grid, T&D World Live is the place to learn about that. Check out our great program and speaker lineup at and be sure to also look at our one-day co-located event: Commercial Electric Vehicles and Infrastructure Conference (CEVIC). We’re also offering three Learning Labs (pre-conference classes) and some awesome technical tours.

And, finally, I want to remind you that our smaller, more intimate event was created by utilities for utilities. If you want to do more than just sit through the sessions, like talk one-on-one to the speakers and panelists, as well as solution providers, we’ve built in a lot of time for that, too. I hope to see you in Sacramento.

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