Where were you for the great blackout of 2003? Most of us have a great story to tell from this day because 50 million of us in Ontario and eight U.S. states were plunged into darkness after an epic power failure.
Power was restored for many within a day, but for the rest of the week, businesses across the province faced mandatory or voluntary power restrictions leading to cutbacks and shutdowns.
The blackout was more than an inconvenience; it exposed some gaping holes in Ontario’s electrical grid. So, what’s changed in 10 years?
A lot, but not enough.
Research released earlier this year by Hugh Byrd, Professor of Architecture at the University of Lincoln, UK, and Steve Matthewman, Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Auckland, New Zealand found that this and other high-profile blackouts (there was an 18-hour country-wide one in Italy that same year, just to name one) are simply dress rehearsals for the future, when they will occur with greater frequency and increased severity.
In the report, Professor Byrd stated: “Western societies…are becoming ever more dependent upon electrical power yet supply will struggle to meet demand.”
Look around you right now – how much power are you using? On average, every household uses 25kWh of electricity every single day, which equals about $1,000 a year on your hydro bill. That may not seem like a lot, but remember, that’s an average.
So today, we remember the blackout almost nostalgically, but the reality is, our aging electrical grid is being stretched to the limit. Yes, the grid is tougher and smarter than it was 10 years ago, but it can still short out (the Superdome in New Orleans went dark for 30 minutes during the 2013 Super Bowl) or be torn down (the December ice storm proved that).
At every level, we have to start making the transition to something better, cleaner and more reliable. That means everyone – from governments to big corporations, small businesses to the average homeowner. Otherwise, as the report says, we’re likely to spend much more time sitting around in the dark.
Read the full report