“Such a complex undertaking is going to take some time,” Abraham said Wednesday. “The area affected by the blackout included 34,000 miles of high-voltage transmission lines and hundreds of power generating units, all of which went out of service in a period of about nine seconds.”
Abraham said that during those nine seconds, thousands of events occurred that could have some role in the blackout.
Many of the events were separated by just milliseconds, so all data must be synchronized to the atomic clock in Colorado, a process Michehl Gent said is difficult. Gent is president of the North American Electric Reliability Council, which is working to finalize the sequence of events on Aug. 14.
Gent said that the task force will decide whether or not to make public NERC’s final timeline. The council had already released an abbreviated timeline that pointed to FirstEnergy Corp.’s Ohio system as the likely starting point for the outages. However, FirstEnergy maintains that earlier disturbances existed elsewhere on the grid that Thursday, so its troubles could not have triggered such a massive cascade.
Once the task force determines the exact order of events, it must analyze all of those events and data points to determine the causes. Then it will search for potential weaknesses in the systems of hardware, software, rules and procedures—“finding out what worked well and what didn’t,” Abraham, a co-chair of the task force, said.
The task force will develop recommendations on how to prevent a recurrence. “Any recommendations the joint U.S.-Canada task force makes will likely focus on technical standards for operation and maintenance of the grid, and on the management of performance of the grid,” Abraham said.