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Readers are encouraged to share their views on issues affecting the electric power engineering profession. Send your letters to Mel Olken, editor in chief, molken@ieee.org. Letters may be edited for publication.

Longer Restoration Times?

The January/February issue contains a number of very interesting articles on blackout and restoration, but there was one topic of discussion that I did not find: As one compares the “great blackouts” of 1965, 1977, and 2003, the restoration time has substantially increased each time.

The 1965 event darkened New York City at about 5:15 p.m. According to a Wikipedia article, power was restored to most of New York by midnight, making the outage time in New York City about seven hours.

The 1977 event darkened New York City at 9:27 p.m. Power was restored to most of the city by 10:30 the following evening, making the outage approximately 25 hours.

In the 2003 event, Manhattan lost power about 4:15 pm (by personal observation) and service was not fully restored until 10:30 p.m. the next day (IEEE Power & Energy Magazine, January/February 2014, p. 27) The outage time was therefore about 30 hours.

The time when the blackout “started” is fairly well defined; we can quibble about when restoration is “complete.” But those quibbles are not important. After each of these events, committees and commissions were formed, studies were made, reports were issued, procedures were written, and communications circuits and computer systems were installed. What do we have to show for it? A trend that is clear, and in the wrong direction!

This would be worth some further discussion in IEEE Power & Energy Magazine.

Andrew L. Jones, P.E.

Guest Editor’s Response

Thank you for your letter and interesting observations regarding the duration of system restoration times.

The causes and system restoration challenges of the blackouts and restoration of New York City in 1965, 1977, and 2003 were fundamentally different. Although the 1965 blackout began with the opening of transmission lines in Ontario, electrically near the New York system at Niagara, the eventual effect on New York City was the loss of all transmission paths from the north. A path from the west, however, was available to assist system restoration efforts. Most cables were self-cooled at that time and could be more rapidly restored than forced cooled cables. In 1977, damage to transmission and generation equipment and several cables had oil pressure issues associated with the loss of forced oil circulation. After the extensive 2003 blackout, much of the restoration of the New York system was achieved without the benefit of outside system support. A comparison of blackouts and restoration times is difficult due to the different nature of the root cause of the events and the evolving nature of the system.

In many ways, restoration has become increasing complex due to industry restructuring and other regulatory requirements. In general, the implemen­tation of wholesale electric markets has greatly improved the efficiency and reliability of electric system operation. System restoration, however, is now viewed as an ancillary service as ­opposed to the old command and control electric utility structure, which may have allowed for more operational flexibility. Additional barriers now exist to restoration units, such as the need for meeting both cybersecurity ­requirements and stricter environmental constraints.

Restoration presents many new technical challenges that have increased with time. Load has grown and is more concentrated in urban centers, which may present large surges during energization. The load model characteristics are more complex due to the use of both new and different load technologies and the addition of distributed resources. The system dependency on new technologies has in many ways improved the reliable and economic use of infrastructure, but these technologies have also complicated system operation. For example, shunt FACTS controllers, such as SVCs and STATCOMS, may greatly improve voltage performance during restoration, provided that power to their ­station service supply is available.

IEEE is advancing the state-of-art technologies that both reduce the likelihood of blackouts and facilitate system restorations. I am grateful to the authors of the January/February 2014 IEEE Power & Energy Magazine issue and to you for your comments and insights into system restoration and look forward to meeting the future challenges presented by the evolution of the system.

—Mike Henderson

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