Congratulations: If you’re reading this, there’s a good chance you still have electricity. Unfortunately, hundreds of thousands of Americans hit by winter weather in the South this week couldn’t join you. And ice and storms making their way north threaten loss of power stretching to Vermont.
Why do Americans tolerate such outages?
They are not inevitable. The German power grid has outages at an average rate of 21 minutes per year.
The winds may howl. The trees may fall. But in Germany, the lights stay on.
There’s no Teutonic engineering magic to this impressive record. It’s achieved by a very simple decision: Germany buries almost all of its low-voltage and medium-voltage power lines, the lines that serve individual homes and apartments. Americans could do the same. They have chosen not to.
Electric users ask: Why not put power lines underground?