According to a new joint report by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC), U.S. power-grid operators currently gave the capability to quickly restore their systems in the event of widespread outages using so-called “blackstart” resources. This means the operators have the necessary generation to restart without help from the electrical grid.
This study follows a 2016 review that assessed utilities’ plans for restoration following a widespread power outage. Nine utilities registered with NERC were evaluated.
“Although some participants have experienced a decrease in the availability of blackstart resources due to retirement of blackstart-capable units over the past decade, the joint study team found that the participants have verified they currently have sufficient blackstart resources in their system restoration plans, as well as comprehensive strategies for mitigating against loss of any additional blackstart resources going forward,” according to the study.
The study stresses the importance of testing blackstart resources, as utilities that have expanded this testing have gained important knowledge that was used to improve restoration plans.
FERC and NERC also provide recommended practices that will likely lead to even greater blackstart capabilities. These recommendations include: mitigating risks associated with the reliance on a single fuel, considering further study of the adequacy of compensation for blackstart and other resources supporting system restoration, verifying model data to ensure accuracy of blackstart simulations through coordination between transmission and generation registered entities, expanded testing to confirm viability of blackstart capability through coordination between transmission and generation registered entities, and obtaining insight from registered entities that have experience with expanded testing.
According to a FERC press release, all recommendations are for voluntary consideration only. However, in January, the commission did sign off on and new rules, procedures and standards related to emergency preparedness and blackstart resources.
“This study … is important because blackstart resources are critical to maintaining the reliability and resilience of the bulk power system,” as stated by the FERC release. While there is always work to be done, this study suggests that, for now, the blackstart resources currently available should prove adequate if needed.