Biden administration seeks more power outage data from utility companies

FORT WORTH, TX - FEBRUARY 16: Pike Electric service trucks line up after a snow storm on February 16, 2021 in Fort Worth, Texas. Winter storm Uri has brought historic cold weather and power outages to the state. (Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images)

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The White House and the Department of Energy have launched a new initiative to collect more granular data about power outages from U.S. utility companies.

In an announcement on Nov. 22, the Biden administration issued an appeal for more utility and outage data companies to sign up for its existing outage data reporting regime, which is known as the Outage Data Initiative Nationwide (ODIN).

The administration is calling for more utilities to agree to share data in a bid to address the outsized impact that outages can have on disadvantaged communities. Multiple analyses including academic studies of the effects of winter storm Uri in 2021 and Hurricane Irma in Florida have found that power outages disproportionately affect overburdened and low-income communities.

The White House is hoping that more utilities will agree to share power outage data by Dec. 9.

In a statement, the White House and DOE said: “OSTP and DOE are jointly launching a White House Call to Action to bring together electric utilities and their data system partners to join us and provide standardized power outage data to ODIN.”

“In recent years, power outages, driven primarily by extreme weather events, have increased markedly, exceeding 8 hours of interruption in 2020 and 7 hours in 2021,” they added. “These outages disproportionately affect historically overburdened and underserved communities. For example, during a 2021 winter storm in Texas, low-income areas experienced more pipe bursts and made more calls for help per person than other areas. Another study showed that after Hurricane Irma in Florida, higher-income individuals were able to evacuate to destinations with lower power outage rates than lower-income individuals.”

ODIN is managed by the Department of Energy and has developed through a public-private partnership over the last eight years. About 60 electric utilities in 26 states are currently signed up for the initiative. 

The data call comes amid a push by the Biden administration to understand the outsized impact that power outages can have on disadvantaged communities. It is being led by U.S. Chief Scientist Denice Ross, Office of Science and Technology Policy Assistant Director for Electricity Tom Wilson and Program Manager in the Office of Electricity at the DOE Chris Irwin.

Details of which utility companies have made new outage data commitments will be announced at a White House Electrification Summit on Dec. 14.   

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Denice Ross, Department of Energy (DOE), electrical grid, White House
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