Learning from the Blackouts: Transmission System Security in Competitive Electricity Markets
Electricity market reform has fundamentally changed the environment for maintaining reliable and secure power supplies. Growing inter-regional trade has placed new demands on transmission systems, creating a more integrated and dynamic network environment with new real-time challenges for reliable and secure transmission system operation. These operational challenges are intensified as spare transmission capacity is absorbed.
The major blackouts of 2003 raised fundamental questions about the appropriateness of the rules, regulations and system operating practices governing transmission system security. Despite the considerable efforts since 2003 to address the weaknesses exposed by the blackouts, it can still be argued that the development of these rules and operating practices have not kept pace with the fundamental changes resulting from electricity market reform. More can and should be done.
Management of system security needs to keep improving to maintain reliable electricity services in this more dynamic operating environment. The challenges raise fundamental issues for policymakers.
This publication presents case studies drawn from recent large-scale blackouts in Europe, North America, and Australia. It concludes that a comprehensive, integrated policy response is required to avoid preventable large-scale blackouts in the future.
The legal and regulatory arrangements governing transmission system security can be enhanced. In particular, scope exists to clarify responsibilities and accountabilities and to improve enforcement. System operating practices need to give greater emphasis to system-wide preparation to support flexible, integrated real-time system management. Real-time coordination, communication and information exchange, particularly within integrated transmission systems spanning multiple control areas, can and must be improved.
Effective real-time system operation requires accurate and timely information and state-of-the-art technology to facilitate effective contingency planning, system management and coordinated emergency responses. New and existing technology could be more fully employed to enhance effective system operation. Appropriate training is also required to enhance emergency responses. More
effective asset and vegetation management can also make a valuable contribution to strengthen transmission system security.
An effective policy response should also consider how best to employ marketbased approaches to complement regulatory arrangements to strengthen transmission system security at least cost.
Governments should provide the leadership and drive needed to establish effective, coordinated processes that address the key policy issues in an integrated and comprehensive manner. At the same time, all stakeholders need to work together to address these challenges if we are to avoid unduly exposing transmission systems to the risk of further substantial power failures.