Some random thoughts about yesterday’s LA blackout

Lynne Kiesling

We wouldn’t have paid so much attention to this if it hadn’t happened in LA.

Human error in this case was a maintenance worker not following procedures for reconnecting a wire that had been accidentally cut; reconnecting two lines at different voltages leads to power surge. Or at least that’s my non-engineer understanding of it.

Nothing to do with market design, largely because this was a distribution wire, and there’s no retail market in Calfornia. Furthermore, the utility in question, LADWP, is a municipal utility and thus non-market by choice and by construction.

The more we can automate routine maintenance functions and automate the process of finding faults on a line, the less margin there is for human error to cause such dislocation and disruption. However, the electric utiilty industry is one of the most backward in the application of communication technology to perform these functions. We should ask why the regulated utility (or, in this case, the municipal utility) has so little incentive to implement modern technologies that have become so pervasive in so many other industries.


3 thoughts on “Some random thoughts about yesterday’s LA blackout

  1. Our wants are too deep for the needs

    Professor Lynne Kiesling points out a glaring flaw in the electric utility industry (regarding the human error in yesterday’s Los Angeles blackout): The more we can automate routine maintenance functions and automate the process of finding faults on a …

  2. Our wants are too deep for the needs

    Professor Lynne Kiesling points out a glaring flaw in the electric utility industry (regarding the human error in yesterday’s Los Angeles blackout): The more we can automate routine maintenance functions and automate the process of finding faults on a …

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