What is an Adequate Level of Reliability?

NERC recently closed comments on its revised definition of an adequate level of reliability. I’m confused, though. Doesn’t section 215 of the Federal Power Act already state that reliability standards are “to provide for reliable operation of the bulk-power system,” where “’reliable operation’ means operating the elements of the bulk-power system… so that instability, uncontrolled separation, or cascading failures of such system will not occur?” It’s certainly what my managers at FERC used to think—that there couldn’t be a transmission event without someone having violated a standard!

In contrast, some Australians are starting to wonder if they’re paying to much for power supply more reliable than necessary. And at home in the United States, one Wall Street Journal columnist suggests that we should do a better job of preparing for blackouts, since we’ll never eliminate them.

And about that adequate level of reliability definition [PDF]… All they’ve managed to come up with is four pages of circular logic—the state the bulk electric system will achieve when standards are followed. Sheesh!

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