Power outages and other power quality disturbances are costing the U.S. economy more than $119 billion annually, according to a recent study sponsored by the Electric Power Research Institute’s (EPRI) Consortium for Electric Infrastructure to Support a Digital Society (CEIDS).

The study, “The Cost of Power Disturbances to Industrial & Digital Economy Companies,” highlights the growing need of several industries for so-called “digital quality” electricity, meaning always perfect and always on. The study involved interviews with a statistically representative sample of 985 firms in three sectors of the U.S. economy that represent 40% of the U.S. gross domestic product and show particular sensitivity to power disturbances. The study was conducted by Primen, an EPRI affiliate.

Specifically, CEIDS looked at the digital economy sector, which includes firms that rely heavily on data storage and retrieval, data processing, or research and development operations. The other two sectors that are especially sensitive to power disturbances are the continuous process manufacturing (CPM) and fabrication and essential services sectors. The CPM sector includes manufacturing facilities that continuously feed raw materials, often at high temperatures, through an industrial process. The fabrication and essential services segment includes all other manufacturing industries, plus utilities and transportation facilities.

The study shows that the roughly two million establishments in all three sectors collectively lose $45.7 billion annually to power outages, and another $6.7 billion annually to power quality disturbances, such as voltage sags and other occurrences that do not allow equipment to function properly. EPRI said this data suggests that across all business sectors, the U.S. economy is losing between $104 billion and $164 billion a year to outages and another $15 billion to $24 billion to power quality-related issues.

“The results of this study emphasize the need for the energy industry to work with equipment manufacturers and end-use customers to maximize power reliability and quality, and develop a systematic approach to meeting electricity supply requirements in the 21st century,” said Clark Gellings, EPRI vice-president of energy utilization. Gellings noted that digital businesses are the most sensitive to outages and power quality economic losses, but actually show the lowest per-establishment losses for power quality disruptions among the sectors studied.

Additional information on the power outage/disturbance cost report is posted at www.epri.com/ceids.

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