Solar storm-induced electricity blackouts could cost more than $40 billion to the US economy daily, a new study has found. The team of researchers, including those from University of Cambridge and University of Cape Town, found that during the most extreme blackout scenario, affecting 66 per cent of the US population, the daily domestic economic loss could total $41.5 billion, with an additional $7 billion loss through the international supply chain. “On average, the direct economic cost incurred from disruption to electricity represents only 49 per cent of the total potential macroeconomic cost,” the study noted.
Some researchers believe that outages would last only hours or a few days because electrical collapse of the transmission system would protect electricity generating facilities, while others fear blackouts could last weeks or months because those transmission networks could in fact be knocked out and need replacement. “It was surprising that there had been a lack of transparent research into these direct and indirect costs, given the uncertainty surrounding the vulnerability of electrical infrastructure to solar incidents,” said Edward Oughton from University of Cambridge. Manufacturing sector in the US is the most affected by solar-induced blackouts, followed by government, finance and insurance, and property. “If only extreme northern states are affected, with eight per cent of the US population, the economic loss per day could reach $6.2 billion supplemented by an international supply chain loss of $0.8 billion,” added the paper published in the journal Space Weather.