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

August 18, 2004

The August 14 Blackout: One Year Later

On August 14, 2003, the largest blackout in North American history affected eight U.S. states and the Province of Ontario, leaving up to 50 million people with no electricity. Immediately following the blackout, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and Canadian Department of Natural Resources established a task force with the mandate to identify the causes of the power outage and make recommendations to reduce the possibility and scope of future outages. The task force released a final report on April 5th, and on August 12th the U.S. and Canadian co-leads of the task force released a joint report detailing key accomplishments in meeting the task force recommendations to reduce the risk of blackouts.

Major accomplishments include identifying and remedying the direct cause of the black out, conducting emergency preparedness training for individual grid operators, and evaluating large utilities across the Eastern Interconnection to assess their capability to meet electricity reliability standards.

The report also identifies some major challenges still ahead such as enhancing the overall security of the electric sector, revising and enforcing electricity reliability standards of the North American Electric Reliability Council (NERC), and establishing independent funding for NERC.

NERC has also issued a status report that outlines the actions NERC and the industry have taken to improve reliability since the blackout. NERC conducted on-site verification that the electric providers First Energy, the Midwest ISO, and PJM implemented specific improvements to rectify deficiencies that directly caused last year's blackout. NERC reports that some of the initiatives to improve reliability will take years to implement. For the DOE press release, which links to a PDF of the task force's full status report, "The August 14th Blackout One Year Later: Actions Taken to Reduce Blackout Risk," see the DOE Web site.

For NERC's "Status Report on NERC Implementation of August 14, 2003, Blackout," and a number of other reports on the blackout, including the April 5th final report from the U.S.-Canada Power System Outage Task Force, see the NERC Web site.