Failing grid left thousands without power during winter storm; now, a push to upgrade it could change that


TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) – A push from the federal government to prevent the risk of future power outages is underway, as thousands in Louisiana struggle with the aftermath of Hurricane Ida.

President Biden’s massive infrastructure bill is moving through Congress, promising billions of dollars to upgrade the U.S. power grid. Jeff McClanahan, Director of Utilities for the Kansas Corporation Commission, told the Kansas Capitol Bureau on Tuesday that the plans could save many people from having to go days or weeks without power, after a storm.

“With grid reliability and resilience efforts, I think you can mitigate to a great deal duration and frequency of outages,” McClanahan said.

The infrastructure bill plans to address issues with outages caused by natural disasters, like tornadoes, hurricanes and wildfires. It also seeks to help northern states grappling with extreme winter weather.

Freezing cold temperatures back in February led to rolling blackouts for thousands of Kansans, leaving state lawmakers scrambling to find a solution. State efforts have been made to help people struggling to pay sky-high utility bills after the damages.

The President’s plan to invest $11 billion over the course of five years to update the grid includes updates to prevent cyber security attacks and flexibility to better prepare for storms. While McClanahan said that power outages are inevitable, the response time to the situation can be drastically improved with efforts to expedite the transition toward modernization.

“As long as you have equipment exposed to the weather, ice storms, tornadoes, will damage the equipment. So, the question becomes how quickly can you diagnose it and fix it,” he said.

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