Paper looks at power outages

Associate Professor Umesh Kumar outlines some of his research on a chalkboard at SUNY Canton. Kumar recently published “Electric Power Grid Disruptions: A Time Series Examination” with his longtime research colleague Brian K. Harte. The paper ran in the Journal of Critical Infrastructure Policy. SUNY Canton photo

CANTON — A SUNY Canton associate professor from the Finance program is studying blackouts to help keep companies out of the red.

In “Electric Power Grid Disruptions: A Time Series Examination” Kumar teamed up with his colleague and former SUNY Canton faculty member Brian K. Harte to explore the causes and effects of power failures. The paper was recently published in the Journal of Critical Infrastructure Policy.

According to U.S. Department of Energy data, there were 2,825 outages during a 246-month period from January 2000 to June 2020.

“Our research suggests that 46% of electrical power outages relate to natural or weather-related events, 28% to grid system operations or failures, and 25% to human interactions,” Kumar said. “Future exploratory studies should examine how organizations, both for profit and non-profit, are affected by power outages.”

Electrical interruptions can have both financial and economic impacts on electricity providers, government, organizations, businesses, and community operations. Economic output in major sectors suffers due to weather related electric interruptions, which typically last more than a day. Sectors employing more low-income workers are vulnerable and economic losses for the sectors is significant.

“We hope to expand awareness of these data for various types of analyses and use by others concerned about electric power reliability,” Kumar said. “There is a need for multi-disciplinary study of the electric grid, including risk analyses, potential financing options for grid improvement, and the evaluation of alternative policy options.”

The two researchers noted that the ability to maintain an efficient and protected electrical power grid is essential to support critical infrastructure. A national electric grid with many aging, legacy components has raised questions regarding whether or not substantial improvement investments are necessary. Unless properly configured, growing demand on electricity supplies from renewable energy sources like wind and solar power can increase grid instability. Extreme weather events driven by climate change may also heighten the risk of future grid impairment, according to the in-depth paper.

Kumar is one of the college’s most prolifically published researchers and has previously authored papers on corporate responsibility, climate change and retirement investments during economic downturns. He integrates his topics of study into the courses he delivers. He also guides classes and clubs allowing students to propose investments using dedicated funds from the SUNY Canton College Foundation, Inc. His ongoing success as a faculty member led him to earn the 2016 SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Scholarship and Creative Activities.

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