Cascading failures in power grids

Published in IEEE Potentials, 2009

Recommended citation: Hines P, Balasubramaniam K, Cotilla-Sanchez E. "Cascading failures in power grids." IEEE Potentials. 28(5):24-30 (2009)

Power grids are complex dynamical systems, and because of this complexity it is unlikely that we will completely eliminate blackouts. However, there are things that can be done to reduce the average size and cost of these blackouts. In this article we described two strategies that hold substantial promise for reducing the size and cost of blackouts. Both “reciprocal altruism” and “survivability” respect the necessarily decentralized nature of power grids. Both strategies can be implemented within the context of the existing physical infrastructure of the power grids, which is important because dramatic changes to the physical infrastructure are prohibitively expensive. However, additional engineering and innovation will be needed to bring strategies such as these to implementation and to create power grids with smaller, less costly blackouts.

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