- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 5, 2003

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Better communication between the operators overseeing the electrical transmission grid and utilities, particularly in Ohio, could have prevented a power outage from spreading through eight states and Canada on Aug. 14, a report by Michigan utility regulators said.

The Michigan Public Service Commission yesterday criticized the lack of coordination between the Midwest Independent Transmission System Operator in Indiana, known as MISO, and PJM Interconnection, which operates the energy market from New Jersey to West Virginia.

It said the regional transmission organizations failed to detect the scope of power problems in Ohio as massive transmission lines owned by FirstEnergy Corp. and American Electric Power tripped off and some FirstEnergy power plants went off-line.

“On the day of the blackout, there was confusion,” the report said. “AEP was calling FirstEnergy directly. AEP was calling PJM. PJM was calling FirstEnergy. PJM considered calling MISO but did not have time before events started to cascade.

“Representatives from all four organizations were involved in discussions regarding the disturbances, yet no one entity was able to see the whole picture and put the pieces of the puzzle together,” it said.

Michigan is the first state affected by the blackout to issue its investigation results. The report said no evidence was found that Michigan utilities or transmission operators were responsible for the blackout.

The report said FirstEnergy was not giving timely or complete information to MISO or PJM, citing the fact that they were having problems with their computers.

The report criticized MISO for failing to warn Michigan utilities and transmission-grid owners of the problems in Ohio, leaving them no time to react when huge power surges began hitting the state.

“MISO, as the regional reliability coordinator, should have informed affected transmission operators of the disturbances that were occurring in northern Ohio,” it said.

The power outage stretched from New York to Michigan and into Canada, affecting an area populated by 50 million people.

The report recommends that a single regional transmission organization be established for the Midwest, and that participation be mandatory for all utilities and transmission-grid owners. Now, some are overseen by MISO and some by PJM, making it hard for any regional overseer to have the authority to ensure the reliability of the transmission system.

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