Secretary Abraham’s remarks on the release of the blackout report indicate some failure to meet reliability standards on the part of FirstEnergy, among other things:
The Electric System Working Group found that the initial events that led to the cascading blackout occurred in Ohio.
- The blackout was initiated when three high-voltage transmission lines operated by FirstEnergy Corporation short-circuited and went out of service when they came into contact with trees that were too close to the lines.
- The report tells us that FirstEnergy’s control-room alarm system wasn’t working properly – and the control-room operators were unaware it was not working properly – which meant they were also unaware that transmission lines had gone down.
- And because FirstEnergy’s monitoring equipment wasn’t telling them about the downed lines, the control room operators took no action — such as shedding load — which could have kept the problem from growing, and becoming too large to control.
- Moreover, because FirstEnergy operators did not know their monitoring equipment had failed and were unaware of the growing problems, they did not inform neighboring utilities and reliability coordinators, who also could have helped address the problem.
- The loss of the three lines resulted in too much electricity flowing onto other nearby lines, which caused them to overload.
- While all this was happening, there were also problems at the Midwest Independent System Operator – also called the MISO – which is the entity that coordinates power transmission in the region that includes FirstEnergy.
- The Interim Report found that MISO’s system analysis tools weren’t performing effectively on the afternoon of August 14th. This prevented MISO from becoming aware of FirstEnergy’s problems earlier and taking action.
- The Working Group also found that MISO’s reliability coordinators were using outdated data to support real-time monitoring, which hindered them in detecting further problems on the FirstEnergy system and assisting in relief actions.
- Furthermore, the investigators found that MISO also lacked an effective means to identify the location and significance of transmission line breaker operations reported by its monitoring systems. Having that information would have enabled MISO operators to become aware of important line outages much earlier.
- The report shows that MISO and the PJM Interconnection – which is the reliability control area that includes Pennsylvania, Maryland, New Jersey and parts of other states – lacked joint procedures to coordinate their reactions to transmission problems near their common boundary.
- And the report identifies other factors that contributed to the conditions that led to the blackout, including poor communications, human error, mechanical breakdowns, inadequate training, software glitches, and insufficient attention to things ranging from the performance of sophisticated computer modeling systems to simple tree-trimming.
The Electric System Working Group has concluded that at least four reliability standards established by NERC were not observed by FirstEnergy on August 14th, and two were not followed by MISO. These failures helped create a problem of such magnitude as to be insurmountable.
The entire report is available at the DOE website.