Blackouts: Environmental Ruling Holds Potential for Far-Reaching Impact
By Steve Kiesner Director of National Accounts, Edison Electric Institute | May 04, 2010
Two events in August-the well publicized blackout and a less publicized environmental ruling-will - have a far-reaching impact on the ability of the power industry to serve its customers.
The 2003 Blackout
The August, 2003 blackout in the northeastern United States riveted the nation's attention on how important the electric transmission grid is in enabling utilities to serve their customers. Although the cause of the blackout is being investigated, one potentially positive result is the emphasis the blackout has placed on the need to modernize the grid.
Surging wholesale transactions and rising consumer demand for electricity have pushed the capabilities of the U.S. transmission system to its limits. At the same time, a number of factors actually discourage investment in transmission, including:
It is worth mentioning that electricity competition has been brought up as a culprit in the blackout. This question detracts attention from the need to develop a more robust U.S. transmission grid. Electrons follow the laws of physics. No matter what utility structure model exists-competitive, a mixed model or fully integrated-there must be adequate infrastructure in place and appropriate rules for reliable operation. Sufficient transmission capacity is a critical building block in all of the models. Without adequate transmission, none of the models will work.
EEI has long advocated the following policy proposals to help assure that the U.S. has the mandatory reliability standards and the electric transmission capacity it needs to go forward.