The Death Print, Emergency Planning and Regulation

energy death print

More and more industry pundits and decision-makers are starting to focus on the so-called death print.  The costs to produce energy are typically framed in terms of the quantifiable dollars necessary to generate the power (construct, fuel and operate power plants) plus the cost of transmission and distribution.  But there is a more ambiguous, difficult-to-define cost: the so called energy death print.  In a nutshell, the death print is the number of people killed per KWH produced, and this number is highest for coal and lowest for nuclear.  The CDC even states that the health impact of fossil fuel generation is a significant concern.

The U.S. Death Print Vs. Other Countries

The interesting thing about it is that U.S. death prints are far lower than other countries, and the reason is because regulations are stricter here in the U.S. (i.e., the Clean Air Act as well as hydro oversight from FERC and nuclear oversight from the NRC).  In the context of emergency planning, these regulations, while sometimes costly and cumbersome, have clearly had a positive impact on the frequency of emergency situations.  For example, thanks to FERC’s regular dam inspections, it’s been over 80 years since the last flood-inducing dam failure.

Obviously utilities have a kind of love-hate relationship with regulators, but based on the positive impact these regulations have had on outage frequency, I think it’s time to give the regulators some love.  Yes, sometimes regulatory compliance can be a real pain in the you-know-what, but in the grand scheme of things this extra hassle has likely saved utilities tens of millions of dollars over the past 50 years in terms of reduced restoration costs.

Check out this article from Forbes for more information on the relationship between the so-called death print and regulatory oversight.

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