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

August 17, 2005

Record Power Demand Marks Blackout Anniversary

August marks the second anniversary of one of the largest U.S. power blackouts. On August 14th, 2003, 50 million people throughout the Northeast lost electricity in a power outage lasting, in some places, several days. In April 2004, the U.S. and Canada issued a joint report on their investigation of the causes of the blackout. Following the recommendations in the report, the two governments have taken several steps to ensure electric reliability and avoid future outages. Among those steps: the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) established an electric reliability division to advise on standards proposed by industry-based organizations; the North American Reliability Council (NERC) established an audit program to monitor training and equipment of companies and organizations with responsibilities for real-time grid management; and, most recently, the Energy Policy Act of 2005, passed this summer, makes compliance with reliability standards mandatory under federal law. NERC also plans to expand the purview of its reliability standards. See the DOE press release.

Electric reliability has been tested repeatedly this summer as individual utilities as well as independent grid operators have each set new records for electricity demand. According to the Edison Electric Institute, the U.S. electric power industry set a new record for power demand in late July, providing 95,259 gigawatt-hours of power, 5.3 percent above the previous record set back in August 2002. While no blackouts have been reported, PJM—the electricity grid operator for 51 million people in 13 eastern states and the District of Columbia—instituted a brownout on July 27th, reducing voltage by 5 percent in portions of its territory to maintain overall system reliability. In August, the company has continued to call on its customers to reduce their power usage through conservation. See the press releases from the Edison Electric Institute and PJM.