Who will fix the nation's power grid?

After reading this article:

I got thinking, Who’s responsibility is it to fix the nations power grid? Will they get a private crontractor to work on it? Will it be the states responsibility to get thier portion of the grid fixed, or will the Fedral Government take charge? How will it be funded? What companys have the resorces to try and tackle a project like this?

Any awnsers to any of these questions will be greatly appreciated. Sorry for my poor grammar and spelling.

If each individual company pays attenion to their internal relay system, keeps a regular/active relay maintainance program in operation, and doesn’t cut back on several of their Line maintainance programs ,just to keep the stockholders happy, there is no fear of another big shutdown.

All of the companies on the grid were lax in their methods-------a good and well programmed relay sustem would have isolated the problem to a single location in the first fractional part of a second.

The fact that it developed into a cascade clearly indicates that somebody wasn’t minding the store.

And they shouldn’t be blaming computer failure either----------those systems were up and running successfully long before the computer came along .

The NEMA provides a list of relays that protects the system from the generator to the customers-------and was doing so back when the big GE and Circle W were giving away free light bulbs to encourage the change from the gas mantle.


Only this woman’s girlfriend can save us!

With respect, I don’t think you have any clear understanding or expert knowledge of the events of the big blackout of August 2003. It was a fairly complicated event which would not have been alleviated by “internal relays” or a “relay system”.

Read this report. It can tell it better than I can, and my fingers are tired from having to keep typing about this since August of last year. See mostly Part 3.


Firstly, that article is quite old and not entirely accurate even at the time. The causes of the blackout are now known, and they are detailed in the report I linked to earlier.

All things considered there is little that is “wrong” with the electrical grid of the US at this point. The vast, vast majority of the residents of the US enjoy stable power 24/7, barring occasional storm-related spot outages.

There is no single owner of the “grid”, nor even one lone entitiy in charge of ordering changes. People can point to NERC but in reality the grid is governed by commissions and boards in all 50 States, and in some areas county and city oversight facilities as well. The grid is typically owned by a several companies within a given State, and sometimes the lines that go to your hosue are owned by a completely different company than the one which generated the electricity in the first place. In most large-scale T&D scenarios, a multitude of private companies will be involved in any upgrades or fixes, for a multitude of reasons.

As far as fixing goes, the joint US-Canadian task force recommended the following actions:

I only speak from a foundation of 40 years spent in the power industry ,all of which was spent in system operation--------half of that in first line management…

I believe it entitles me to an opinion based on a considerable experience in the use of and application of the “silent sentinals”.

I am not conversant on the findings of some ad hoc committee------

I’m just what was known in the game as a “nuts and bolts man”.

WE were a necessary presence in the power game------if for nothing else to provide the knowledge that resulted from the hard knocks that kept those wattmeters rolling.

We were the ones who,when told that it couldn’t be done-------just went ahead and did it!

Outa here.


But this particular committee (which was not “ad hoc”) was focused on this actual event which was referenced in the article linked in the OP. Are you saying you dispute their findings? And if so, on what basis?

I don’t think anyone denies that “nuts and bolts (men and women)” keep the system going, but so do others as well. Even the much-maligned crews that go on tree trimming details are instrumental to preventing outages, as are those who mow under the HT lines to prevent brush fires (see the report for the significance of why I say that). The homeowner who curses up a blue streak at those “damn tree butchers” who trim a tree planted on the utility easement doesn’t understand how important the job the crews do is.

What I’m saying is that the issues with the grid are myriad, and need addressing from many directions. But that having been said, our system works pretty well, considering the load/demand placed upon it.

I don’t want to get into a thing here but the committee WAS ad hoc------especially for the purpose of addressing a specific problem and that problem only.

I agree as to the importance of ALL contributing work forces in a total operation but I stick to my opinion that a properly functioning relay system ,which is high line oriented, utilizing phase-distance relays, overload relays, differential relays,ground relays and micro-wave communication should have separated the affected line/s in something like two -hundreths of a second.

And now EZ has left the building!

i am also a system operator, albeit for a small company.

the transmission lines are owned, as Una Persson stated, by many different companies. each owner is responsible for maintaining their lines. but there is not any requirement that i know of for any company or government to provide more transmission unless they are building new generation.

right now, as i understand it, there is somewhat of a lack of available transmission in certain high population growth areas. while population and production are growing, no one is building new transmission. it simply isn’t profitable.

the only way that it will get fixed is if there is another catastrophe, or if the gov mandates it to be so. but even that is difficult because some of the transmission is owned my municipalites, and some is privately owned by companies.

as far as the committe being ad hoc, it was. that was what was needed to prevent a recurrance of the same predicament. not a bad thing though…

and in response to this:

from what i have read, this would have worked were it not for a combination of many, many simultaneous events. nerc requires that “all control areas shall operate so that instability, uncontrolled separation, or cascading outages will not occur as a result of the most severe single contingency”. This is nerc operating policy 2.A. what this means is that each control area, (there are 10 in north america) must plan to have the resources to keep the lights on if one of their systems fails such as the loss of a generator or main transmission line.

the blackout was an example of more than one contingency that could not be controlled. some was human error, no doubt, but lack of transmission was a contributing factor as well. even with perfectly functioning relays, when the system is mismanaged and transmission lines are not maintained, problems will arise. especially when some parties are unaware of the contingencies on their own system.

and lastly, in response to this:

at first i didn’t agree with this. your first post kinda seemed, well, immature. but you have a point. but there will be a time when generation/load exceeds the capabilities of the trasmission system. in other words, if someone doesn’t start building new transmission lines, there will be times during peak usage when demand will be greater than the transmission system is able to supply, even if the generation is there. and this will not be fixed by those who own the transmission unless it is profitable. it will probably take another widescale blackout before transmission becomes profitable.

Well, we need to finish this point. See the scondary definition of “ad hoc” - “Improvised and often impromptu” (American Heritage Dictionary, 4th Ed.) This is what I had in mind, and to call the committee that is insulting to the people who were on it and the effort expended. I know several people who were on the committee and it was not what I would call improvised or impromptu.

However, I understand what you meant when you used the term and have no argument with your usage. I’m just explaining what I had in mind when I saw the term. OK?

I actually don’t disagree much with you here. Your initial post here seemed somewhat off the cuff and I felt it was oversimplifying a rather complex chain of events which have a laundry-list of potential remedies as the committee found.

FWIW, Fierra (my ladyfirend who is the one standing in front of the GE steam turbine in the picture astro linked up above) uses ad hoc to mean “off the cuff”, like I thought it meant. Maybe it’s an English/American difference in the primary and secondary usages?

Well now your title asked “Who will fix the nation’s power grid.” Your sub questions point a different direction and they seem to have been answered as well as they are likely to be by the people on this board.

However, no-one has directly answered the main question. So I will step out on a limb and say the answer is… “No one will for many many years.”

OK, I guess someone indirectly did.

But I think that even a major blackout will not make it profitable to build new transmission lines. It will not be profitable until we have continuing rolling brownouts. No one will be willing to pay the increased fixed charges for the tremendously expensive new lines to stop a potential blackout 2 states away. No one will want the new power lines through their backyards. And I’d be mighty suprised if the recommendations of the US/Canadian panel get pushed past the power industry lobbyists.

Is a Self-healing power grid possible? If so, is there any one company has the recsources to upgrade all of the mechanical switches to digital?