LANSING (AP) – The head of a major Michigan transmission company
and an official with Ohio-based American Electric Power traded
blame over the spread of the Aug. 14 blackout in separate hearings
yesterday.

International Transmission Co. President Joseph Welch told the
U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee that the Ann Arbor company
got “absolutely no warning” before being hit with a high-voltage
electric flow that collapsed ITC’s grid in the Thumb area and
southeast Michigan.

Welch took a slap at AEP and its reliability coordinator, PJM,
for disconnecting their systems “to save themselves.” Several AEP
lines tripped automatically before the blackout struck at 4:10
p.m.

But J. Craig Baker, AEP senior vice president for regulation and
public policy, told a state Senate committee yesterday that Welch
was trying to pin blame on AEP when ITC may have been at fault.

“AEP did not manually trip our protective equipment, sacrificing
Michigan to save ourselves,” Baker told the Michigan Senate
Technology and Energy Committee. “This is not a case of a company
gaming the system, as Mr. Welch is implying to Congress today. …
This was a chain reaction of events based on the laws of
physics.”

The dispute broke out as state, federal and provincial officials
in the United States and Canada, as well as an independent overseer
and a two-nation panel, continue to delve into what caused the
blackout that spread through eight states and Canada in a matter of
seconds, leaving millions of customers without power.

Welch said no one told ITC that Columbus-based AEP and
Akron-based FirstEnergy Corp. were experiencing line failures in
northern Ohio, giving ITC no warning a wave of high-voltage
electricity could head its way. “On August 14, it was apparent that
parties were choosing to operate the grid within their sphere of
influence for their own purposes without regard to rules,
procedures, or the impact of their actions on the other users of
the grid,” he said.

According to Welch, transmission systems in northern and
southern Ohio separated from each other because of the line
failures in northern Ohio.

That caused electricity blocked from taking its normal route
north through Ohio to flow over AEP’s transmission system from
southern Ohio through Indiana and into Michigan, then back to
FirstEnergy’s system in Ohio, suddenly putting 4,800 megawatts of
electricity onto Michigan’s transmission grid, far more than the
lines were able to carry.

The power grid began shutting down, leaving outages and dead
generating plants in its wake, he said.

“This event is akin to a `tsunami’ hitting an unsuspecting
coastal community,” Welch told the House committee. “When the AEP
and PJM systems disconnected from FirstEnergy without warning to
Michigan, the electricity demand � was thrown onto Michigan.
The results were devastating.”

Baker, however, said total electric flow into the state on Aug.
14 never exceeded 3,000 megawatts, about half the state’s
6,000-megawatt capacity for carrying power from nearby states and
Ontario, Canada.

“If some are terming these flows a tsunami, then I would suggest
an appropriate investigation would explore the events within the
state that day, rather than those surrounding it,” Baker said.

“Since whatever events occurred to trigger the outage did not
happen on the AEP system, we cannot tell you what may or may not
have successfully prevented the blackout, but our system going down
would have done nothing at all to help the situation,” he
added.

Yesterday’s hearing was the second by the Senate Technology and
Energy Committee to assess the reasons and effects of the blackout.
Committee Chairman Bruce Patterson, R-Canton, said he plans to hold
another meeting when the Senate returns to session the week after
next.

AEP serves 122,000 southwest Michigan customers and owns
Michigan’s largest nuclear power plant, the Donald C. Cook plant in
Bridgman.

ITC bought Detroit-based DTE Energy’s transmission grid in
February 2003.

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