Paul Hines (University of Vermont)
Abstract. Electric Energy is critical to modern society, but the networks from which most cities get their power are sometimes surprisingly fragile. Small disturbances can spread to create massive blackouts with serious social consequences. This talk will begin with a brief overview of the physics of power grids, and then review results from two research projects. The first looks at how cascading failures spread through power systems, and ways to efficiently measure the resulting risk. The second builds on ideas from the literature on critical slowing down in dynamical systems to illustrate the conditions under which variance and autocorrelation are useful early warning signs of instability in power grids. Finally, I will outline some key open questions in "transdisciplinary electric power grid science,"  particularly given the changes being brought about by the transition to increased renewable (and variable) energy sources and increasing stress posed by extreme weather.
 C. D. Brummitt, P. D. Hines, I. Dobson, C. Moore, and R. M. D’Souza, "Transdisciplinary electric power grid science," Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, vol. 110, no. 30, pp. 12159–12159, 2013.