--> Gill Blog: Blackout Report: Interim Comments

Gill Blog

Thursday, November 20, 2003

Blackout Report: Interim Comments

You'll excuse me if my prose is a little off today - just spent the night with a glossary of electrical power generation terms and a bottomless pot of coffee plowing through the 134-page interim report on the causes of the August 14th blackout (during the evening I instant messaged a friend and described this document as "hairier than a sasquatch that has overdosed on rogaine").

We plan to provide more analysis after digesting everything in this Interim Report, but we thought it might be a good idea to provide comments on some things that struck us, on first read:

  1. $1 trillion dollars has been spent in developing the North American Power Grid.

  2. The North American Electric Reliability Council (NERC) was established in 1968 in response to the 1965 blackout as a voluntary organization relying principally on reciprocity and mutual self interest; recent changes in the industry have altered many of the traditional mechanisms, thus it is inadequate to current needs and should be backstopped by Federal regulation in the US and Canada.

  3. A tremendous amount of consolidation and changes in the industry have occurred since '68 that has led to the unbundling of generation, transmission and distribution activities into regional operating entities; this is actually a good thing, but more work needs to be done, particularly in the area of strengthening communication nodes between different control areas.

  4. The system is already embedded with a great amount of redundancy that should have prevented this event from occurring, however, this wasn't a situation that was as much about one event cascading into many, as it was about three events occurring together - the likelihood of this happening again is infinitesimally small.

  5. The report is set up much in the same way as the interim report that led to the release of The Interagency Paper on the Resiliency of the US Financial System released after the terrorist attacks; it provides the opportunity for input so changes might be made before the final report is released. (comments and recommendations to the task force in charge of this report can be sent to and

  6. Despite the report's meticulousness, and the manner in which it demonstrates how well cross-border task forces can work, it is descriptive and not prescriptive in its nature; the onus is still on us to recognize the demand side problems that will probably not be addressed in the final report.
For more coverage on the release of this important document, see the latest news reports.


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