Some electric utilities recently hit by super-storm Sandy have come under heavy criticism for both storm preparation and storm caused outage response. New York Governor Cuomo wants heavier utility regulation and has suggested that LIPA be privatized.

Heroic line crews did the best they could under the worst conditions imaginable, including threats from enraged customers. For the most part, outage management and other smart grid technology functioned as it should until completely overwhelmed by area-wide outage. It was the basic physical infrastructure--the poles, wires and submerged transformers and switchgear--that catastrophically failed under the storm deluge of wind and rain.

Yes, Sandy was the worst storm in at least 100 years. But there was also Katrina which knocked out power across states. And many much smaller storms can cause numerous, often long term outages. Given that the basic structural design hasn’t changed much in a hundred years, can we do better?