The Economy

A fascinating article from The Industrial Physicist, argues that deregulation of the electrical system ignored thy physics of how the whole thing worked.

Understanding the grid’s problems starts with its physical behavior. The vast system of electricity generation, transmission, and distribution that covers the United States and Canada is essentially a single machine— by many measures, the world’s biggest machine. …

In the view of Casazza and many other experts, the key error in the new rules was to view electricity as a commodity rather than as an essential service. Commodities can be shipped from point A through line B to point C, but power shifts affect the entire singlemachine system. As a result, increased longdistance trading of electric power would create dangerous levels of congestion on transmission lines where controllers did not expect them and could not deal with them.

The problems would be compounded, engineers warned, as independent power producers added new generating units at essentially random locations determined by low labor costs, lax local regulations, or tax incentives. If generators were added far from the main consuming areas, the total quantity of power flows would rapidly increase, overloading transmission lines. “ The system was never designed to handle long-distance wheeling,” notes Loren Toole, a transmission-system analyst at Los Alamos National Laboratory.