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March 3, 2005

Less than 10 seconds to respond

Grid operators helpless to stop blackout: report

ALBANY, N.Y.

The blackout that swept across eight states as well as Ontario and parts of Quebec in the summer of 2003 spread so fast there was nothing operators of New York’s electrical grid could do to stop it, according to a report from the operators.

The New York Independent System Operator’s final report on the blackout concluded that New York did not initiate or contribute to the disturbance, echoing past comments from the grid administrators.

The Aug. 14, 2003, blackout affected 6.7 million of New York’s 7.5 million customers, with the New York metropolitan area hit particularly hard.

Investigators believe the problems started in Ohio, but critics have questioned whether there were adequate safeguards in New York.

The NYISO report contends that grid operators in New York did not have enough time — less than 10 seconds — to respond to the sudden and severe power surge from outside New York.

The magnitude of the power swings was “substantially” beyond anything the system was designed to withstand.

Power lines tripped offline, causing imbalances between generation and consumption that resulted in a loss of about 80 per cent of the state’s power load, according to the report released late Monday.

The report said power was restored in New York in under 30 hours.

“New York’s electric system functioned as well as could be expected under the circumstances, and the restoration of services following the blackout was rapid,” according to the report.

In releasing the report, NYISO officials repeated their request for mandatory national standards for electric transmission systems.

The Associated Press

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