This week marks the ninth anniversary of the 2003 northeast black out. Like most of you, I remember the events of August 14, 2003 down to the very minute the lights went out. Having lived through 9/11 at the New York University dorms near the World Trade Center, I wanted to believe that it was an office prank, but soon learned it was a very real emergency. This experience forever changed the way I view the importance of power reliability.
Energy concerns are not just limited to oil: electric power outages generate worries about the reliability and diversity of electricity supplies. Power disruptions are capable of immobilizing entire countries (as we recently witnessed in India), causing major harm to local, region, and even national economies, and creating states of emergency.
The 2003 black out and the recent week-long event in India show how fundamental it is to protect and maintain the integrity of our electric system. The combined experience of both blackouts should focus our energy efforts toward on one thing and one thing only, strengthening reliability within New York’s bulk power system. The New York Independent System Operator (NYISO) has made numerous improvements since 2003 to facilitate flexibility and speedy recovery from power disruptions.
Despite these enhancements, we must still ask, “Can it happen again?”
According to NYISO, the answer is absolutely yes. NYISO’s draft 2013 Reliability Needs Assessment found that New York will suffer serious reliability problems beginning in 2016 if it doesn’t procure additional power generation and make much-needed upgrades to its aging transmission system in the next several years. The grid operator contends that without increases in generation and infrastructure improvements, it will have to “take emergency operations measures including load relief to eliminate the transmission security violations in Southeastern New York.”
This leads to the obvious conclusion that New York’s energy future will be determined by how effectively we protect, develop, and diversify our energy resources in tandem with major investments in transmission infrastructure. My preference is for these investments to focus on in-state power generation and not allow for domestic dollars or jobs to be exported abroad.