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

November 26, 2003

U.S.-Canada Task Force: August 14th Blackout was Preventable

The U.S.-Canada Power System Outage Task Force released its interim report on the August 14th blackout last week, concluding that grid operators in Ohio failed to take action that would have restricted the impact of the blackout to a smaller region. Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham characterized the blackout as "preventable."

The report found that a relatively minor incident -- the failure of three high-voltage transmission lines -- cascaded into a widespread blackout because computer problems at FirstEnergy Corporation prevented the grid operators there from knowing the extent of their predicament. Meanwhile, problems with system analysis tools at the Midwest Independent System Operator (MISO) -- the entity that coordinates power transmission in that region -- also prevented MISO from becoming aware of the situation and taking action. In addition, MISO lacked procedures to help it work with the PJM Interconnection -- the nearby grid operator for Pennsylvania, Maryland, New Jersey, and parts of other states -- to address power fluctuations and overloads near the boundary of the two systems. See the interim report and Secretary Abraham's remarks by following the link under "Blackout Interim Report Released" on the DOE home page.

To solicit public comments, the task force will hold a series of public forums in early December in Cleveland, New York City, and Toronto. Comments can also be submitted by mail or email. After gathering these comments, the task force will release a final report that will include recommendations for corrective actions. For details on the public forums and public comment process, see the November 25th press release on the DOE Web site.

While FirstEnergy disputed the task force findings, MISO issued a press release that detailed the improvements it has instituted since the blackout. See the November 19th press releases from FirstEnergy and MISO.