The U.S.-Canada Power System Outage Task Force released its final report on the August 2003 blackout today. From the press release:
Recommendations include the following:
* Implementation of mandatory and enforceable electricity reliability standards in both the United States and Canada, with penalties for noncompliance, backed by appropriate government oversight;
* Strengthening the institutional framework of the North American Electric Reliability Council (NERC) and its initiatives on compliance;
* Developing a funding mechanism approved by regulators for NERC and the regional reliability councils, in order to ensure their independence from the parties they oversee;
* Addressing deficiencies identified in FirstEnergy and some reliability organizations in the United States, by June 30, 2004;
* Strengthening the technical recommendations made by NERC on February 10, 2004;
* Improving near-term and long-term training and certification requirements for operators, reliability coordinators and operator support staff; and
* Increasing the physical and cyber security of the network.
Note the glaring absence of the most bang for the buck recommendation: use demand response to reduce peak demand on congested power lines. When will we stop thinking about electricity as a one-sided system? How long will we bear the vulnerabilities that such backward, obsolete thinking produces?
On a more optimistic note, the report does elaborate on the role that reactive power plays in stabilizing the grid. This is yet another area in which the use of prices to prioritize use would be of great value. The report says that reactive power supplies have been short in this region for years. Explicitly treating reactive power as an economic good, and commensurately enabling markets for it to exist and transactions/contracts for it to occur, would remedy this supply/demand imbalance that contributed so greatly to the blackout.