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The Near-Term Fix

How to mitigate transmission risk before the next big blackout.
Fortnightly Magazine - November 1 2003
  • this entire risk-mitigation process is hours or days.

    An example of planning, sticking with our example above, would be to document the response experience to a single, extreme weather event in a specific part of a service territory, then consider alternative courses of action that may have improved the outcome: reduced outage duration, faster problem identification, etc. The documented event must then be readily available to operators and field crews for reference when the next one occurs within that immediate locale. Sensitivity analyses of load and capacity forecasts are needed to better assess reserve margins and prepare for the future.

A Worthwhile Effort

After the events of Aug. 14, it's hard to imagine that any transmission operation could afford not to take deliberate steps of risk mitigation. It could be considered irresponsible if transmission owners and operators chose to maintain the status quo while legislators and pundits debate long-term, costly courses of action, especially when fairly straightforward action can be taken to mitigate legal, regulatory, and financial risks. And reducing risk is only one side of the benefit coin; by implementing some of the short-term process and technology solutions suggested above, transmission companies can improve asset valuation by planning more efficiently to maintain a consistent, high flow of electricity within industry parameters, as well as improve customer satisfaction through uninterrupted service.

CEOs and CFOs should continue asking themselves: What events during the next 30, 60, or 90 days will strain transmission? Take stock of the data currently being used by transmission operations and assess how its quality can be enriched by other available data sources. Compare the analytical and planning tools currently employed by your organization versus those available, and identify those that will specifically bolster your organization's ability to manage risk. Ensure existing and new information systems are maintained under rigorous security standards. Incorporate an iterative process in your own control room and field operations that encourages planning, internal communication, and pre-emptive action.

It is critical for energy providers to begin thinking of reliability in terms of days rather than years, and that they roll out simple programs and enhance technology now to protect assets, as well as customers. Undue transmission strain will occur again soon, and at the end of the day, regulators and investors aren't the ones held directly responsible for keeping the lights on.

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