Is our electric system better than it was 10 years ago?
With the recent anniversary of the historic 2003 Northeast Blackout, the short answer is, “Yes, but it is still a long way from what it should be.”
While national reliability standards have been adopted, making it far less likely that falling trees in Ohio will take out power in the northeast for over 24 hours, more needs to be done to bolster an electric system that remains fragile, challenged, and in need of overhaul.
The lights stay on when we generate a sufficient supply of power, and effectively transmit it. Unfortunately, there are areas with power supply issues in the northeast, as well as in other areas of the country, and balkanized transmission systems predominantly built, designed, and engineered decades ago for local utilities to move power only over short distances.
In particular, while downstate New York has squeaked by the past few hot summers from a supply standpoint, the potential closure of a number of power plants, an overall lack of new generation in the pipeline, and growing demand are among the issues that must be addressed.
Reflections of this are the calls to close Indian Point, which provides 25 percent of New York City and the Lower Hudson Valley’s power. The New York Independent System Operator, has expressed serious concern about this because it views the continued operation of this facility essential.
In this context, the areas needing to be addressed in New York serve as a good example for the rest of the country in striving to establish and maintain world-class electrical systems.
Establishing and maintaining a world-class generation and transmission system will provide sustained, long-term stimulus to the economy, reduce carbon and other toxic emissions, and enhance public safety. However, these challenges and opportunities cannot be realized overnight and require a sustained and determined effort, similar to how the utility industry has responded to significant challenges time and time again in the past..