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5th Anniversary of the 2003 Northeast Blackout

Some reflections from the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC):
On August 14, 2003, the North American electric grid experienced the largest blackout in its history, leaving over 50 million people across Southeastern Canada and the Northeastern U.S. without power. On this, the event’s fifth anniversary, North American Electric Reliability Corporation President and CEO, Rick Sergel, highlights the progress that has been made and new challenges ahead for ensuring reliability:

“In the mid-afternoon of August 14, 2003, the electric system reached a breaking point: trees contacted four separate transmission lines in Ohio – quickly taking the lines out of service; automatic controls sensed the disturbance and unnecessarily took additional lines out of service; failed computer systems left operators with inaccurate system information for hours before being addressed; and grid monitoring tools were not able to assess conditions quickly enough for operators to react.

“With the support and oversight of its stakeholders in industry and government, NERC has worked to fundamentally change the situation that allowed this catastrophic event to occur by developing mandatory reliability standards, enforcing zero-tolerance policies, leading extensive reviews of electric system components, and developing new reliability tools. As a result of these efforts, I can confidently say that the events that led to the 2003 blackout are now much less likely to recur.”
You can read more of the upgrades to the grid here. Funny enough, if you go the Wikipedia page, you can read who was blaming who for the cause of the outage just after it happened. Canadians blamed Americans, New Yorkers blamed Canadians, and all the while it was several trees in Ohio that triggered the whole event.


John Wheeler said…
I was there. In fact, I was in the Emergency Operations Facility at Indian Point nuclear plant where the plant's staff was helping to restore power to the blacked-out grid. Things at the nuclear plant were pretty routine (for a loss of off-site power), and the plant had conservatively decided to activate the EOF, even though regulations did not require it.

While quickly and safely restarting the plant, the Indian Point team also facilitated communications between organizations around the region. Indian Point was one of the first major generating plants back on the grid. The nuclear-generated electricity helped to stabilize the grid in southern New York, and thus accelerated the recovery for the whole region.
Anonymous said…
That graph is not entirely correct. No where near all of NJ was impacted. I was in Cherry Hill, NJ buying a car when the blackout happened. We had no loss of power at the dealership. The Salem / Hope Creek plants were not impacted either. I do not know about Oyster Creek. I think that they were fine too.
Zane Blomgren said…
First, an announcement: Tripwire’s policies for NERC compliance are now available for download.

NERC has been instrumental in helping bring older, vulnerable systems into a secure, reliable state. Many customers still express concern – they are having to balance a reduction in significant existing vulnerabilities with the appropriate growth to handle the current growing demand for electricity. Planning for the power grid of the future is different from NERC compliance, but both are having an enormous impact on the industry. This is clearly a time of transition for power companies and it is more critical than ever to have a solution in place that can help ensure a secure, steady state for critical systems.

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