I know that western countries tend to be over-regulated, and I would prefer it if regulations and requirements, taxes and licenses that negatively impacted citizens and small businesses didn’t exist.
However, I am all for regulating major businesses – especially utilities, and especially to mitigate risk.
As it happens, governments do virtually nothing to prepare for mega-disasters, they only prepare for little ones like hurricanes and floods. They don’t prepare for mega-tsunamis, solar storms, or terrorist attacks on electrical grids.
Consequently the bodies and businesses that run our utilities tend to make the minimum preparations and risk mitigation required of them by law. That makes sense, because generally their main concern is making a profit, not looking after the welfare of citizens.
I am keen to see regulations created that force services that we rely on to have backup plans should the unthinkable happen.
Hospitals – typically have diesel generators and three days worth of fuel. They should be required to have at least one month’s fuel, and a Plan C for when that runs out. That would include non-electrical equipment that can replace electrical equipment to some degree. Battery operated lighting. A plumbing system that can be pumped by hand.
Armed Forces, Emergency Services and Police – weapons will still work, vehicles might, but if they don’t have communications then they won’t be much use. A redundant communication system that does not rely on the power grid needs to be in place. I don’t care if they resort to smoke signals – anything would be better than nothing.
Water – some facilities in Australia have good back up plans, most don’t. Diesel generators (with a lot of spare fuel) should be mandatory. Anywhere gravity can shift water and sewerage, it should be able to without any electricity required to make it happen.
In a previous post I pointed out that supply bottlenecks should be created so a surplus of basic supplies exists in the wholesale delivery infrastructure.
Especially disturbing is the threat of nuclear meltdowns in the USA, should power grids be down for prolonged periods. There is a culture of providing the minimum backup plans required by law – that is typically 3-7 days of diesel power. Following Fukushima you would expect some improvements, yet despite some smart bills being passed, they were denied by the Senate!
A very sensible bill was passed by the House in 2010 - H.R. 5026, the Grid Reliability and Infrastructure Defense (GRID) Act – which proposed measures that would minimize the risks associate with entire grid failure. For example:
Such standards shall require entities that own or operate large transformers to ensure, individually or jointly, adequate availability of large transformers to promptly restore the reliable operation of the bulk-power system in the event that any such transformer is destroyed or disabled as a result of a reasonably foreseeable physical or other attack or geomagnetic storm event.
The #1 reason it could take 6 months to restore the grid is a lack of spare transformers. The logical solution is to have some spares on hand. Unfortunately the bill was not passed by the Senate. I guess more important things need taxpayer money…