Recent blackouts have underscored the vulnerability of the nation's aging electricity grids. Carnegie Mellon's Electricity Industry Center is bringing together leaders in the fields of business, engineering and policy to find solutions.
"Our electrical systems are obviously vulnerable not just to attack by people who wish to cause harm but also by nature," said Lester Lave, who co-directs the center with professor Granger Morgan. "We are limited as to how much we can protect the system from such assaults, but there is a lot we can do to speed recovery after one happens."
Lave and Morgan are among those focused on minimizing the paralysis that immediately follows an outage, from the gridlock in the streets due to failed traffic lights, to rescue vehicles becoming trapped in the gridlock, to people stuck in elevators that won't open.
"When the power goes out, there is no reason why critical social services such as traffic lights, water and sewer systems, gas stations and cell phones should stop working," said Morgan. "There are affordable technical solutions that could keep these and other critical systems operating and make the nation less vulnerable."
Along with Jay Apt, the center's executive director, Morgan and other colleagues presented a number of these solutions at the Conference on Crisis Readiness on Capitol Hill in 2006.