This is an excerpt from EERE Network News, a weekly electronic newsletter.

August 27, 2003

After the Blackout, Groups Envision Future Power System Options

In the wake of the August 14th blackout, energy groups are already trying to answer the most crucial question: How can we prevent this from happening again? The Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) thinks it already has the answer. A new EPRI report articulates a vision of a unified, digitally controlled power grid that can move power precisely and reliably throughout North America, a concept first articulated by EPRI in its 1999 Electricity Technology Roadmap. The new report also calls for advanced meter technologies and increased use of distributed energy resources. See the 1999 roadmap and the August 25th press release.

The Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI), an energy think tank, agrees with EPRI on at least one point: the enhanced use of distributed energy resources-including relatively small, modular power devices such as fuel cells, solar panels, microturbines, and combined heat and power systems-would boost the reliability of our nation's electrical supply. RMI also suggests establishing small office parks that can be isolated from the grid. See the RMI press release (PDF 102 KB). Download Acrobat Reader.

Meanwhile, DOE, the U.S./Canada Joint Task Force, and other groups continue to investigate the cause of the August 14th blackout. While the root cause has not been determined, the first failures occurred on several power lines just south of Cleveland that are operated by FirstEnergy Corporation. Still unclear is the cause of those failures and how such apparently minor line failures managed to cascade into such a widespread outage. According to the North American Electric Reliability Council (NERC), pinpointing the exact cause of the blackout will be a challenging task. See the August 15th "Preliminary Disturbance Report" (PDF 40 KB) and subsequent NERC press releases.

According to FirstEnergy Corporation, the transmission grids throughout the region were experiencing load swings and unusual voltage and frequency fluctuations for hours prior to the blackout. See the FirstEnergy press releases from August 16th and August 18th.