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Nearly 1.4 million residents went without power for 12 hours, flights were canceled, sewage pumps stopped working, and people had to be rescued from stuck elevators.
The damage was not limited to San Diego, affecting people throughout Southern California, Arizona, and even parts of Mexico, affecting nearly 6 million people.
Over the last century, cities have prospered when connected to the power-providing veins of the grid.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has been tasked to find the cause of cascading failure. These occurrences highlight the reality that our electric grid is vulnerable and in sore need of attention. Rather than focus on the threats our current infrastructure faces, we have an opportunity to rethink the electricity system.
Fortunately, there is a new landscape of technological investment and deployment that offers much richer and more dynamic options than ever before, leading to a variety of potential scenarios for our electricity future—in how we generate, transmit and manage energy.
In Reinventing Fire, slated for release this fall, Rocky Mountain Institute outlines potential scenarios for a more secure, resilient and customer-oriented electric system powered by efficiency and renewables.
Signal processing, networking, storage and communications technologies have become affordable and reliable to address human error timely and effectively to prevent failures to escalate for eleven minutes.


RMI Outlet, Rocky Mountain Institute's blog, explores topics critical to RMI's mission to drive the efficient and restorative use of resources. We invite you to explore our blog, where you can browse by author, or look for information pertaining to the electricity sector, the buildings sector, the transportation sector or just read about general energy.
8th, a maintenance worker at the North Gila substation, near Yuma, Arizona was performing routine maintenance at a substation. Blame-game aside, it should be noted that this is not an isolated case; in Ohio in 2003, wayward branches that snagged nearby power lines caused a similar cascade of blackouts for more than 50 million people as far away as New York City.
But, while an increasingly fragile grid is today's reality, it does not have to be tomorrow's burden. For instance, by transforming the grid into a network of interconnected microgrids, the vulnerabilities of the transmission system are reduced.
I hope that one of the most progressive adopters of new technologies, SDG&E, is open to innovations outside of Fortune 500 companies. This has largely been enabled by the electricity grid (the largest man-made machine in the human history), which provides power to our schools, hospitals and homes. However, the equipment short-circuited and caused an adjacent 500 kV transmission line to trip.


Thirty years ago, chemical process plants were running real-time operating systems fault-free on 256k of memory. 8th, San Diego experienced one of its worst blackouts in recent history, bringing the city to a halt. Resulting voltage fluctuations from the accident caused many of San Diego’s substations and power plants to shut down, including the 2,200 MW San Onofre nuclear power plant. Let's bring technology platforms together that have been tested for the past five years to make 100-year old transmission lines, 50-year old transformers, and twenty-year old reclosers more intelligent. Thus, without access to Arizona’s power generators and with the loss of its own behemoth of a power plant, San Diego and the surrounding area ultimately succumbed.



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