The 2003 Blackout and the Power Grid Today

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Ten years ago yesterday, a widespread power outage plunged New York City and parts of the northeast and upper Midwest and Canada into darkness that lasted, in many places, two days. Jay Apt, professor and director of the Carnegie Mellon Electricity Industry Center, looks back at what caused the 2003 blackout and what changes have been made to bolster the power grid since then.


Jay Apt

Comments [9]

Bill from New Rochelle

I read meny of the post-mortems after the crach.

The blackout spread because the emergency control interconnect links became overloaded with low level useless data. (Drivel.)

What was, and may still be needed is a high-level interrupt program that wil clear the data busses of reports, and transmit important messages and commands. This is easilly done using an Alcatel-Luicent 3B21 computer, or equivelent. Running UNIX, with a clear chain of message priorities, so that CRITICAL messages can cause low level to dump, either into a buffer, or into space.

The alternative is a second, duplicate network for critical messages, so that the garbage can continue to make the pencil pushers happy, and the operators will be able to function at a level uncrowded by middle management kingdoms.

Aug. 15 2013 02:40 PM
John A

I found that a lot of solar equipment may be shopped for on amazon. Now have a 240 watt system that can be set up as needed, plus, no pollution.
I hate the degree of prevention done with powerlines too. I blame it more on political deadlocking. Guess local politics is required. Some people don't want to lose their trees.

Aug. 15 2013 02:02 PM

/Critical/ utilities in the hands of private, for-profit corporations?

/Critical/ services subject to the whims and vageries of the market?

How/when did the population come to accept this?

Nationalize all critical utilities now, so they will serve the public interest, accountable only to the public. No private, monied interests.

Aug. 15 2013 01:58 PM
John A

How resilient will the phone system be, post landlines? Won't this take decades to regain old "copper" resiliency?

Aug. 15 2013 01:56 PM
Bassett from Chappaqua

I have been living i my home for 41 years. While there were a few outages for a few hours time, there is no comparison to what we have endured these last 5 years or so. To say that things have not gotten worse as this guest does, is pure bunk. He speaks of generators, is he saying that every home must be protected with a generator. His complacency is distressing.

Aug. 15 2013 01:56 PM
Amy from Manhattan

If different localities take different protective measures based on local conditions, will global climate disruption change what measures will be effective in each place?

Aug. 15 2013 01:55 PM

The utilities couldn't even be trusted to maintain the trees...

How can we trust these utilities with nuclear power, where the stakes are so much greater?

Aug. 15 2013 01:48 PM
Ed from Larchmont

The 2003 blackout took place on the eve of August 15th, the Feast of the Assumption of Mary. It lasted 24 hours (24 hours and 1 minute in Larchmont), and no one could figure out what caused it. On the one hand it was a gift from Mary for us to contemplate the day before her feast day. On the other hand, it reminded us that we are vulnerable, and if we continue to lead seriously immoral lives as a society, it can fall apart fast.

Aug. 15 2013 08:03 AM
George from Bay Ridge

How has Hurricane Sandy affected utilities and the power grid?

Aug. 15 2013 12:13 AM

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