(OilPrice) In warm regions power grids are pushed to the limit during the summer months, as homes and offices increase their energy consumption by turning up the air conditioning. During these times of strained electricity supply just one small failure in the system, such as a downed transmission line or generator short circuit, can knock out the power to a neighbourhood, or entire town.
The complexity of the electric grid means that several small failures can actually set off a chain reaction, culminating in a large scale blackout. Forbes mentioned the power cut that occurred in the US in 2003, when a few isolated failures happened within a few hours across several states, resulting in a failure of the entire electrical grid, leaving more than 50 million people without power in the northeast. The estimated cost was $10 billion.
The best defence that grid operators have against such large power cuts is to ask customers to conserve energy where they can, and try and reduce the burden on the grid.