Don't Blame I.T. Too Much

The U.S.-Canada Power System Outage Task Force last week released a report that blamed the summer's big blackout primarily on the inability of multiple parties to follow industry protocols, including Ohio utility FirstEnergy Corp.'s failure to trim nearby trees that brought down three transmission lines. Congress also was faulted for failing to enact legislation to make electric-reliability standards mandatory and enforceable. The situation this summer was compounded by a software glitch in FirstEnergy's computerized alarm system that prevented early warning of the problem and by the fact that the Midwest Independent System Operator, the group responsible for power transmission in the Midwest, was using outdated software to identify problems within the grid. Says Jill Feblowitz, energy practice analyst at AMR Research, "It wasn't a lack of technology, just no authority or series of controls for visibility into potential problems."

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