NERC, FERC, and FRCC agree on 2008 Florida blackout

Michael Giberson

From a NERC press release:

The North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC), the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), and the Florida Reliability Coordinating Council (FRCC) have reached an agreement regarding the role of the FRCC Reliability Coordinator in the February 26, 2008 power outage that left nearly one million homes and businesses in the state without electricity…. Under the agreement, FRCC will pay a $350,000 civil penalty, to be split equally between the United States Treasury and NERC.

The agreement closes a joint NERC-FERC investigation into FRCC’s part in the event. Funds received by NERC will be used to offset its operating expenses, which are otherwise collected through allocations to load-serving entities in the U.S. and Canada.

The agreement is available at: http://www.nerc.com/files/Order_FRCC_Settlement_03052010.pdf.

The agreement contains a summary of the events leading to the Florida blackout:

4.  On February 26, 2008, portions of the lower two-thirds of the State of Florida experienced a loss of load event more commonly referred to as the Florida Blackout. The event led to the loss of 22 transmission lines, 4,300 MW of generation, and 3,650 MW of customer service or load.

5.  The event originated at the Flagami Substation on the FPL system when a field engineer was diagnosing a piece of BES transmission equipment that had previously malfunctioned. In the process, he disabled two levels of protection on equipment energized and connected to the BES and a “fault” (short circuit) occurred that resulted in transmission outages in the vicinity of the fault as well as generation and distribution outages across portions of the southern two-thirds of the state. The disabling of protection introduced the potential for much more significant contingencies within the FRCC footprint, but the operator fulfilling the RC function was not informed that any protection had been disabled and therefore could not and did not operate the system recognizing these contingencies.

6. At the time of the event, the FPL System Operator was also acting as the RC. Immediately after the event, he delegated his RC responsibilities to a NERC-certified operator present in the control center, but who was not involved in operations that day. The original operator maintained responsibility for the FPL system. The new operator performing the RC function then had to assess the extent of the impacted load and canvass the system operators state-wide in order to initiate restoration. During the event, when issuing directives, the RC operators did not use the three-step communication process, direct-repeat-acknowledge. Nonetheless, restoration of the system occurred in a relatively reliable and expeditious manner.

In October 2009, Florida Power and Light was assessed a $25 million civil penalty for its role in the blackout and agreed to make several improvements to systems and practices affecting reliability.