Data: Explore 15 Years Of Power Outages

This database details 15 years of power outages across the United States, compiled and standardized from annual data available at from the Department of Energy.

For an explanation of what it means, how it came about, and how we got here, listen to this conversation between Inside Energy Reporter Dan Boyce and Data Journalist Jordan Wirfs-Brock:

15 YEARS OF POWER OUTAGES:

TIPS FOR EXPLORING THE DATA

  • The data presented here is sorted by the most recent occurrence first.
  • Use the box at the top right of the table to search for any term or date (examples: 10/29, Hurricane Irene).
  • Try searching for the common tags we've used to classify events: severe weather (winter storm, hurricane/tropical storm, wind, tornado, heat, flooding, fog, dust, hail, thunderstorms, cold), vandalism, transmission interruption, equipment failure, load shedding, voltage reduction, fuel supply emergency (coal, natural gas, hydro), generator trip, public appeal, islanding, vandalism (physical, cyber), uncontrolled loss, earthquake, wild fire.
  • Click on any of the columns to sort (example: click on Customers Affected to sort by the number of people who experienced a power outage).
  • If you view more than 10 results at a time, you'll need to scroll to see them all.

You can also view the data as a Google Spreadsheet (where you can download it as a CSV). This version of the database also includes information about the amount of time it took power to be restored, the demand loss in megawatts, the NERC region, (NERC refers to the North American Electricity Reliability Corporation, formed to ensure the reliability of the grid)  and a list of standardized tags.

What this data tells us?

The data tells us what government agencies have reported to the Department of Energy about grid outages in their region or sector.  It also tells us information about those outages - when and where they occurred, how long they lasted, what caused them, what actions were taken, how many people lost power.

For analysis of this data, check out Inside Energy’s map illustrating the rise of severe weather related outages and  Dan Boyce's radio story on the tenuous relationship between solar panels and the grid, which includes a graph showing the increase of grid disruption events.

Limitations of the data

While this database tells us a lot about grid vulnerabilities, it does have limitations. Only major electricity providers and operators are required to report outages, so this database is not comprehensive. Electricity providers fill out a form - here’s a copy of the instructions - and submit it to the Department of Energy. The data comes in all kinds of non-standardized forms and information isn’t reported consistently or comprehensively. For example, if the description of an event simple says “fire,”  we don’t know if that means a wild fire or an electrical fire. Some events are missing information all together: They have no data for the number of customers who lost power, or the location is vague or difficult to decipher.

This database is a starting point: By using the date and region of a grid outage, you can search news and internet archives to find more information about what happened.  If you use this database, and have information to crowdsource about a grid disruption, please let us know at info@insideenergy.org

This data was compiled by Jordan Wirfs-Brock with assistance from Rebecca Wirfs-Brock.

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