NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

The Age Of Technology Demands Steady Power

July 5, 2000

For computer users, power outages or brownouts can cause havoc. Reports warn that such events will be more common this summer than usual as the nation's power demand grows to a level approaching supply limits in many areas.

  • Today's computerized economy is demanding even fewer interruptions and a much steadier current.
  • For example, Pacific Gas and Electric agrees to keep power flowing and prevent voltage surges or dips of 10 percent or more -- but an electric components maker in its region requires that voltages vary as little as 5 percent to avoid system crashes and risk losing materials worth thousands of dollars.
  • Worldwide, power disturbances cause more than 17,000 computer disruptions every second -- from annoying frozen cursors to serious destruction of equipment -- according to American Power Conversion, a company which makes backup power systems for computers.
  • Rapid, minute changes in voltage represent the ones and zeros that make up digital information and are ultimately translated into a human voice during a telephone call, a calculation during a banking transaction or a dose of radiation during cancer therapy.

Companies that are dependent on reliable power for new technology have nurtured whole industries which provide that reassurance -- from manufacturers of surge suppressers to companies that manufacture backup generators. Experts say that market has grown to $500 billion a year.

Source: Barnaby J. Feder, "Digital Economy's Demand for Steady Power Strains Utilities," New York Times, July 3, 2000.


Browse more articles on Government Issues