A series of blackouts in industrialised countries - unprecedented in recent times - occurred in August and September 2003, underlying the critical importance of WEC's goal of Availability for modern industrial societies. Many questions remain to be answered. This will take time, not least because four key questions need to be answered sequentially:
- What happened?
- Why did it happen?
- How could it be avoided in future?
- What did the different blackouts have in common?
To help WEC members follow the evolving analysis of this vital subject, links to key reports published by the various bodies investigating the blackouts are being posted on this special GEIS Blackouts Information Focus area.
WEC organised a London-based workshop in October 2006 on Large Power System Failures, the summary of which is available online.
Meanwhile, we can already say that the blackouts have exposed the need for robust supply systems supported by:
- diversified energy portfolios - Keeping all energy options open
- expanded reliable international trade in electricity
- more robust transmission infrastructures
- common regulatory frameworks between interconnected countries
- reforms to attract capital to infrastructure investment
- refined energy market reform backed by clear government energy policy
We should also remember that, while thousands of people in a handful of industrialised countries have suffered the difficulties of up to two days without electricity, millions in the poorer countries still have no access to electricity at all and access for millions more is totally inadequate to raise their living standards. For these people the sort of very infrequent power cuts experienced recently in the industrialised world would be a huge step forward. While advancing Availability for the well-off, we must also be far more effective in advancing Accessibility in poorer countries.
In response to a proposal from the Japan Energy Association WEC is gathering published information on the technical, economic and regulatory review of the August 14, 2003 North American Blackout. Also presented here is information on the the blackouts in London (August 28, 2003), Scandinvia (September 23, 2003) and Italy (28 September 2003). We will continue to track information on these events and add material with the help of Member Committees.