Adding an extra road in a road network can increase traffic congestion. This counter-intuitive outcome is called a Braess Paradox. Braess Paradoxes, where increased connectivity degrades the performance of a network, has been shown to occur in electric power transmission networks.
An AC power network consists of “buses” (vertices or nodes) and “transmission lines” (edges or links). Buses are of two types – “generators” (power sources) and “loads” (power sinks). To a good approximation, power flowing along a link from node i to node j in a high voltage AC transmission network is given by
where is the voltage phase at node and is the capacity of the transmission line linking and . Maximum power flows when the phase difference is 90.
The capacity of the network as a whole is the maximum total power consumption that the transmission network allows. Assume for simplicity that all transmission lines have the same capacity and that all generators and all loads are identical. This simplification means that, if there are generators and cities, each generator produces power and each load consumes power . Given a network topology and , the set of ‘s which satisfy Equation 1 can easily be found, at least for smaller networks. Eventually, when is increased to a critical value, no solution is possible. The capacity of the network has been reached.
Figure 1 shows a 5-node 3-generator 5-link network operating at it’s critical capacity. Each generator produces power and each load consumes 1.5. Power flows are indicated in red, with arrows on links giving the directions of flow. Node arrows indicate phase angles. Note the 30 phase difference between generators A and B and between the cities.
Suppose that a new link is added between A & B, coupling the phases of these two generators. The large phase angle between A & B of Figure 1 produces a current which cannot be sustained without disrupting the phases on all of the other nodes.
The new critical state with phases reorganised to maximise capacity in the new network is shown in Figure 2. Generators A & B are now nearly in phase, with only a small current flowing between them. The capacity of the network is reduced to 2.91, 3 lower than the less connected network of Figure 1.
A more extreme case is shown below, where adding an additional three links to a simple power network degrades the capacity of the network by .
Calculations using R‘s excellent igraph and nleqslv packages.
 Braess’s paradox in oscillator networks, desynchronization and power outage, D. Witthaut and M. Timme, 2012.