Why is it important to have a reliable power supply?
What happens during a power blackout? Traffic lights don’t work, creating chaos on the roads. Airports and railways also suffer the consequences. News media aren’t able to inform people of what’s happening. Security systems don’t work and shops have to close. And just imagine the impact on the economy…
The power outage during California’s capacity crisis in 2000 affected 1.5 million people, had effects on California’s GDP (it was cut by 0.7-1.5%) and are thought to have cost around $40 billion. Even shorter blackouts, which happen several times a year in the US result in economic losses of $104 and $164 billion, as this article explains.
According to the Royal Academy of Engineers, the cost of an electricity shortfall in the UK would run into billions of pounds. In South Africa, power shortage has had devastating economic consequences too.
Society is becoming increasingly dependent upon electricity. Both companies and families rely on electricity 24/7. But who is in charge of managing the safety and reliability of the power system? That’s the role of the TSOs (transmission system operator). They transmit the electricity from the generation plants to the DSOs (distribution system Operators).
In short, they both are the link between electricity producers and consumers. The TSO ensures that there is a continuous balance between supply and demand. They are also responsible for the reserves that would be used in case of contingencies. The TSOs are able to maintain a real-time balance between supply and demand by continuously monitoring the transmission system and processing this data. Therefore, they are able to react to breakdowns, collaborating with neighbors TSOs if necessary.
The European network of transmission electricity operators for electricity’s provides some videos with detailed information about the activities and challenges of the TSOs.
How much do you know about TSOs? Would you enjoy a game where you take their role?