"Power grid is stressing out, U.S. says"greenspun.com : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread
Notice of an article on the MSNBC website, Power grid is stressing out, U.S. says" at http://www.msnbc.com/news/354266.asp
Excerpt: <<... The overall effect, the report noted, has been the infrastructure for reliability assurance has been considerably eroded. The report also suggested the problem will get worse unless corrective action is taken. Power quality and reliability are increasingly important in a society that is ever more dependent on electricity, it noted. Aging infrastructure and increased demand for power have strained many transmission and distribution systems to the point of interrupting service ... (and) stressing the electrical system, the report added...>>
-- Antoine Neron (firstname.lastname@example.org), January 07, 2000
Full text of article below (in case it disappears on the MSNBC site).
Power grid is stressing out, U.S. says Federal report finds competition has degraded reliability By Miguel Llanos MSNBC Jan. 7 Next time you turn on the lights, think about this: A new federal study of power outages last summer has concluded that the reliability of the U.S. power grid has been "considerably eroded." A big factor, it found, is that utilities that used to cooperate are now fiercely competitive.
'If lawmakers don't act they should be held collectively accountable for what happens to the grid.' Ralph Cavanagh, Natural Resources Defense Council
THE FEDERAL government opened up competition in 1996, the idea being to lower electricity prices and save consumers money. Today, some 163 million Americans in 24 states have what proponents call the "power of choice". Unfortunately, an Energy Department task force said in its interim report on power outages, that has also meant "some utilities have adopted a strategy of cost cutting that involves reduced spending on reliability."
Moreover, competition has also meant that it's harder to figure out who's responsible for reliability.
"The overall effect," the report noted, "has been the infrastructure for reliability assurance has been considerably eroded."
The report also suggested the problem will get worse unless corrective action is taken. Power quality and reliability "are increasingly important in a society that is ever more dependent on electricity," it noted.
Aging infrastructure and increased demand for power have strained many transmission and distribution systems to the point of interrupting service ... (and) stressing the electrical system, the report added.
TRANSMISSION ISSUE TOO While the task force focused on distribution of electricity from utilities to customers, the industry has been ringing alarm bells over another reliability issue that could disrupt the nation's electricity flow.
The North American Electric Reliability Council, an industry group, last month wrote to the House Commerce Committee, stating that last summer's power outages show "we are facing a real and immediate crisis."
The council, whose members operate the transmission of power across the country, warned that "we may not be able much longer to keep the interstate electric grids operating reliably."
Utilities "who used to be cooperate voluntarily under the regulated model," it added, "are now competitors without the same incentives to cooperate with each other or comply with voluntary reliability rules."
LEGISLATION, INCENTIVES On both transmission and distribution issues, federal legislation is seen by many as the solution to the downside of unbridled competition.
After receiving the interim task force report Tuesday, Energy Secretary Bill Richardson urged Congress to enact legislation aimed at increasing the reliability of the power grids.
The task force itself suggested states and the federal government provide incentives so that utilities "maintain and upgrade" their reliability infrastructure.
"The problem is not that we have not learned from past outages," the task force wrote. "Rather, it is that in many instances, we have not taken the necessary steps to design and implement the solutions."
Rep. Tom Bliley, R-Va., is a key player as chairman of the House Commerce Committee. An "Electricity Competition and Reliability Act" has been stuck in committee even though he's warned that "without measured comprehensive federal restructuring legislation, all the benefits of competition will not accrue and those benefits will not reach all consumers."
The key, he added, is to pass legislation that "improves reliability and ensures open and robust competition."
But the complexity of the bill might have kept some lawmakers from focusing on it, and it's also embroiled in the traditional controversy of state vs. federal rights.
ENERGY EFFICIENCY Joining the call for legislation is the Natural Resources Defense Council. Ralph Cavanagh, codirector of the conservation group's energy program, calls the reliability issue a "major problem" because there's no central authority to control the flow of power on the nation's grid.
"The fundamental problem," he said, "is that we have reliability policemen around the country who don't have the authority to issue speeding tickets and people are starting to speed."
The NRDC favors a central authority, along with a stronger role for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, to keep grid users in line. "Competitors all have an incentive to maximize their own benefit," he says, and that means gridlock and power outages unless someone's there to monitor the grid.
The group also argues that incentives for utilities to be more energy efficient would ease gridlock, reduce power outages and even save money.
Up until 1994, energy efficiency funds were required by state regulators but restructuring has eliminated that, Cavanagh notes.
Federal legislation could address that, Cavanagh argues, "but what's been missing is a risk associated with doing nothing."
"If lawmakers don't act, he adds, "they should be held collectively accountable for what happens to the grid."
PUBLIC INPUT VIA WEB The Energy Department task force, made up of government and academic experts, looked at problems in Chicago, New York City, Long Island, New Jersey, the mid-Atlantic and southeastern areas.
The department is taking public comments on the issue through the end of January on its Web site tis.eh.doe.gov/post/comments.html.
The interim report is available tis.eh.doe.gov/post
-- Michael Brownlee (email@example.com), January 07, 2000.
Not that I'm a paranoid conspiracy nut:-), but, does it strike anyone else as "odd" that this report surfaces NOW?
-- NotaNut (firstname.lastname@example.org), January 09, 2000.
Access to the full report is alive and well through a link found at:
(Power Outage Study Team's home page)
GICC folks near San Francisco, New Orleans and Newark: please note the schedule for hearings on various aspects of this report near you in the coming week or two!
-- Bob Althauser (email@example.com), January 09, 2000.
I verified this report with a Y2K-savvy 20 year veteran of California emergency management. He confirmed that deregulation has denigrated power grid reliability.
The question I didn't know to ask the power companies last year was "Are there ANY developments threatening the reliability of the power grid." Limiting the question to Y2K enabled them to avoid this issue. Not exactly trust-building behavior, imo.
-- Jan Nickerson (JaNickrson@aol.com), January 12, 2000.