Cascading Failures as Continuous Phase-Space Transitions

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27 Scopus citations


In network systems, a local perturbation can amplify as it propagates, potentially leading to a large-scale cascading failure. Here we derive a continuous model to advance our understanding of cascading failures in power-grid networks. The model accounts for both the failure of transmission lines and the desynchronization of power generators and incorporates the transient dynamics between successive steps of the cascade. In this framework, we show that a cascade event is a phase-space transition from an equilibrium state with high energy to an equilibrium state with lower energy, which can be suitably described in a closed form using a global Hamiltonian-like function. From this function, we show that a perturbed system cannot always reach the equilibrium state predicted by quasi-steady-state cascade models, which would correspond to a reduced number of failures, and may instead undergo a larger cascade. We also show that, in the presence of two or more perturbations, the outcome depends strongly on the order and timing of the individual perturbations. These results offer new insights into the current understanding of cascading dynamics, with potential implications for control interventions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number248302
JournalPhysical review letters
Issue number24
StatePublished - Dec 14 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physics and Astronomy(all)


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