Will Coronavirus Infect the US Power Grid?

Pandemic level infectious diseases present different challenges from natural disasters for the US power industry. Will COVID-19 mean lights out?

America’s aging power grid has faced major obstacles during the last few years. The fire fiasco in California last summer caused the main electric power company - PG&E - to turn off power to major portions of the state whenever a new fire broke out. This was due mainly to older infrastructures that could not be easily separated from town to town.

With the COVID-19 virus sweeping over the country, many leaders have express concern as to whether the power systems in the U.S. will be affected. Some companies in the electricity industry have even suggested that key employees may need to live on the site at power plants and control centers to keep operations going, should the virus outbreak become worse.

The main problem is one of personnel rather than equipment. There is a limited number of operators trained to run power plants, especially electrical, nuclear and oil and gas plants. Their health is now a critical concern for the industry. To that end, many such sites have been stockpiling beds, blankets and food to provide for just such a contingency.

The good news is that the power industry as a whole has been planning for events to keep their highly skilled workers healthy and nearby to their power stations. For example, Maria Korsnick, president of the Nuclear Energy Institute, recently said that some of the nation’s nearly 60 nuclear power plants are also “considering measures to isolate a core group to run the plant, stockpiling ready-to-eat meals and disposable tableware, laundry supplies and personal care items.”

Image Stock: Adobe Stock

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