Utility Group Urges Total Power System Review
A national organization of electric utility companies has urged a review of the total electrical supply system, including generation, transmission and distribution. Members of the organization, Distribution Vision 2010 (DV2010), are concerned that discussions surrounding the 2003 blackout are too focused on inefficiencies with the nation’s transmission lines and threaten to jeopardize total system improvement.
“We need a balanced approach between generation, transmission and distribution,” said Bob Huber, DV2010 chairman. “There’s no question electric utility networks are overdue for system upgrades, but focusing solely on transmission, which is only one portion of the system, will not assure service reliability to homes and businesses.”
Huber said delayed capital investments have resulted in an electric utility system at risk. For years, partial deregulation of the industry has created an economic environment that led some utilities to delay investments in upgrades to their utility systems. With the public now aware of the reliability risks, Huber believes that scenario will likely change. “The question before the industry and public policy makers is which pieces of the aging system to fix and in what order,” Huber said.
Much of the initial discussion about what caused the blackout has been centered on transmission. The consortium believes any serious attempt to improve reliability must also include upgrading the distribution system.
“A great deal of improvements can be made at the distribution level relatively quickly and affordably, utility by utility, by taking advantage of technologies and new products that already exist,” Huber said.
For example, utilities have successfully used a number of products, including reclosers, fuses, relays, arresters, capacitors and automation, to limit the impact of an outage to a minimum number of customers. For most utilities, however, capital spending to improve the distribution lines has been limited due to capital constraints.
“Utilities have the opportunity to take advantage of existing technologies to enhance system reliability and extend the life of key components on the distribution system,” said Ron Willoughby, director of technical services for Cooper Power Systems, a manufacturer of electrical distribution products. “They also should consider the value of a thorough distribution system analysis, which is perhaps the most effective and immediate tool to identify, quantify and prioritize areas for improvement.”
DV2010’s founding members are We Energies, American Electric Power, Public Service Electric & Gas Company, Alliant Energy, BC Hydro and Oklahoma Gas & Electric Company.
HVDC Light Helps Strengthen N.Y.-area Grid
Federal authorities have given the go-ahead for Cross Sound cable to operate indefinitely to stabilize and enhance power supplies in the New York and Connecticut areas.
Department of Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham issued the order saying: “Continued operation of Cross-Sound cable is necessary and desirable to address effectively the situation that exists in the northeast United States.”
The technology being used at Cross Sound—ABB’s HVDC Light—provides a high degree of voltage stability which increases grid reliability and supports network restoration, according to ABB.
The Cross Sound underwater cable, linking Long Island and Connecticut, was installed under Long Island Sound a year ago, but was not brought online because of ongoing political debate. It was briefly commissioned after the massive power failure on Aug. 14, providing much-needed emergency power relief.
“Within hours, it was delivering 300 MW of energy from Connecticut to Long Island and also providing valuable voltage support and stabilization services for the electric transmission systems in both New England and New York,” Abraham said in his order. “It has been reported that operation of the cable prevented rolling blackouts from occurring in New York in the hours immediately after electric service was restored.”