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Blackout Report Cites Failure to Follow Established Rules

New York, Apr 06, 2004

In a 103-page report issued to the President of the United States and the Prime Minister of Canada, the U.S.-Canada Power System Outage Task Force blamed a failure to follow established industry rules and standards as the root cause of the August 14, 2003, blackout that plunged much of the northeastern U.S. and parts of Canada into darkness. The report warned of the potential for another power failure if both countries fail to adopt mandatory and enforceable electricity reliability standards with penalties for noncompliance.

In a letter prefacing the report, R. John Efford, Minister of Natural Resources Canada, and Spencer Abraham, U.S. Secretary of Energy, said, "The report makes clear that this blackout could have been prevented and that immediate actions must be taken in both the United States and Canada to ensure that our electric system is more reliable. First and foremost, compliance with reliability rules must be made mandatory with substantial penalties for non-compliance."

"Failure to implement the final report's recommendations could threaten the reliability of the electricity supply that is critical to the economic, energy and national security of our countries," Mr. Abraham said. "It is vital that the U.S. Congress pass comprehensive energy legislation that includes mandatory reliability standards." The task force offered a total of 46 recommendations.

The North American Electric Reliability Council (NERC), an ANSI member and accredited standards developer that participated in the investigation of the blackout, issued a statement welcoming the report. "NERC agrees with the task force that the single most important step that the United States Congress can take is to enact the reliability provisions in pending energy bills," stated Michehl R. Gent, NERC President and CEO.

"We have recently adopted revised compliance templates and new disclosure guidelines, initiated a series of rigorous control area readiness audits, and will soon ballot revisions to NERC operating policies that incorporate the findings of the blackout investigation team."

In 1997, a NERC Blue Ribbon Panel report laid out the framework for an independent, self-regulatory organization to develop and enforce electric reliability standards. This report addressed many of the institutional issues raised in the U.S.-Canada Power System Outage Task Force final report and formed the basis for the pending electric reliability legislation. Since the Blue Ribbon Panel report was issued, NERC has established an independent Board of Trustees, developed a new ANSI-accredited standards development process, and created a Compliance Enforcement Program to monitor and enforce compliance with NERC’s reliability rules.

“These changes have positioned NERC to take on the responsibilities and authorities of a strong, independent regulator for electric reliability, but we still need legislation to make this possible,” Gent said.

Also of interest:

Click here view the task force report and for more information on NERC’s blackout investigation and related activities

An interview with David W. Hilt, NERC director of compliance, in the Winter/Spring issue of the ANSI Reporter

Three Months After Blackout, Congress Considers the End of Voluntary Electric Reliability Standards (November 17, 2003)

ANSI Focus on Services Standards