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Preventing Tomorrow's Blackout

approved by the NERC board of trustees on Aug. 16, 2012 and became effective Sept. 1, 2012. The data request requires transmission planners to work with transmission owners, generation owners, and distribution providers to assess single points of failure in protection systems. In the final version of the data request, NERC suggested an 11-step process to perform this assessment for all voltage levels over 100 kV. However, regulated companies and organizations have flexibility to follow an alternate method as long as it generates all of the requested data.

The schedule for completion of the data request was initially proposed as one year. NERC received several industry comments on this draft. Some of the major areas of concerns involved scheduling and reporting, burden on transmission planners, proposed method, voltage threshold, facility selection criteria, and performance measures. Based on the comments received, NERC revised the data request, clarifying that entities can use alternate methods in developing the response and can also use the existing information and studies. NERC also extended the overall timeline to two years.

According to the reporting schedule included in the data request, the entities are required to provide a status update by Feb. 28, 2013, and specific deliverables are due every six months thereafter. The deadline to complete this effort is Sept. 30, 2014. Although the final version of the data request gives affected entities some flexibility and reduces their burden, it still seems to be a significant effort, particularly for the transmission planners with large footprints. The data request requires transmission planners to work closely with protection system experts in uncovering potential vulnerabilities in the power grid.

Coordinating for Reliability

Recently the industry has focused substantial attention on protection system design and its effects on power grid reliability. Redundancy in design and examples of single-point failures have caught industry-wide attention, and these areas overlap between planners and protection engineers. Recent system disturbances in North America have shown the importance of coordination between these two functions.

As the industry works on grid modernization to move toward a 21 st-century power grid, communication channels, high-speed data transfer, and protection system sophistication will have a major role to play. Integrating more intermittent and variable resources, expanding HVDC transmission, adding more extra high voltage (EHV) transmission, and integrating energy storage will dramatically change the landscape of the future power grid. It also will require enhanced and more sophisticated study tools and procedures to perform comprehensive and complex studies that solve multi-variable problems.

Clearly, the power industry is going through a transformation, and coordination and communication between various engineering disciplines will become even more critical. There’s a need to recognize this reality and quickly adjust to embrace this change. FERC Order 754 and NERC’s related efforts are just the beginnings, and the industry will continue to see the need for more coordination — which eventually will result in a better and more reliable grid.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Diwakar Tewari ( is a senior consultant at SAIC. Previously he was manager of operations engineering at California ISO, and led a team in

The case for tighter coordination among transmission planners and protection engineers.
The case for tighter coordination among transmission planners and protection engineers.
Intro Text: 
Recent outages show the importance of proper transmission system design. As the grid becomes more complex, meeting NERC reliability standards and proper assessment of power grid reliability will require closer coordination between system planners and protection engineers.
Publishing Date: 
Monday, December 31, 2012 (All day)