Grid Operators Go To Heightened Alert After Attacks

Grid operators along much of the East Coast last week went into a heightened state of alert after terrorist attacks on New York City's World Trade Center (WTC), the Pentagon and other sites. Several grid operators indicated that they would take their cue from government authorities as to when they will ease their heightened state of alert.

Craig Kazin, a spokesperson for ISO New England, noted that the grid operator has been facilitating a six-state conference call with its government affairs contacts. "On these calls, we've been having key government officials, some emergency management, we've also had the New England Gas Association hooked in with us." Kazin said that it held two conference calls last Tuesday, and would conduct two more conference calls Wednesday, "sharing information and coordinating our response to this."

As far as the bulk power system in New England, everything was normal, Kazin said. "However, facilities are on a heightened state of alert and they will remain so and we're going to take our cues for perhaps standing down from these things from the government," he noted. "Some things that we're going to be watching as indicators are probably the FAA opening up airports, the Coast Guard opening up New York Harbor again."

Kazin noted that the ISO had taken precautionary steps in the wake of last week's attacks. "There's no way that anybody out at any facility is going to be able to thwart a determined terrorist attack, but we have communications put in place to ensure that if there is any disruption of communications, that we can still operate the system."

Meanwhile, Steve Sullivan, a spokesperson for the New York Independent System Operator (NYISO) said that the ISO had heightened security across the entire grid last Tuesday and confirmed that the increased level of security carried over into Wednesday.

As for when the NYISO might ease the heightened level of alert, Sullivan said the grid operator would likely look to the Department of Energy and the Federal Emergency Management Agency. "Obviously, they have ... access to intelligence that we may not have, so we'll look to take cues from them and to be very prudent every step of the way."

Sullivan was asked if there was any noticeable disruption to the grid's operation last week. "From a macro scale, no," he said. "But, obviously, lower Manhattan has gas, electric and steam interruptions." Consolidated Edison of New York last Tuesday said that due to damaged equipment in parts of lower Manhattan there were interruptions of natural gas, power and steam services, but said that it was working to restore the services. Sullivan said that New York City went into the equivalent of what's known as a thunderstorm alert, "which means that we increase in-city generation just to be ready for any reason."

Meanwhile, in the wake of last week's attacks on the WTC, power demand in the city is unlikely to recover to 2001 levels before 2004, according to a report issued by Energy Security Analysis (ESAI).

In a report issued Sept. 12, ESAI noted the dramatic effects of the collapse of the WTC on New York City/Long Island load. Instead of rising to the expected level of 13,000 MW by 4 p.m. on what was forecast to be a warm September day, electricity demand was capped at 10,000 MW as the 300 stories of the WTC complex went offline. ESAI said that the NYISO "had its hands full" backing generation down in the city and the state, with electrical consequences rippling into neighboring NEPOOL and PJM.

"For the medium to longer-term period, we estimate that as much as 500 to 1,000 MW of WTC load -- the size of a small city -- to be lost," the report said. ESAI went on to state that until New York City has time to decide what to do about its loss, whether to rebuild the WTC or transform the site into something else, it is difficult to project what level of power demand will come from lower Manhattan in the future. "Knowing New Yorkers, we expect that the WTC will be rebuilt albeit in a different and more secure platform."

As a practical matter, the report continued, the effects over the next several years will be a decrease in the demand pressure on New York City power supplies. Forward prices will move down accordingly, the report added, and the reconstruction of the southern tip of Manhattan is likely to require at least a year to clear the damage that has been done and several more years to redevelop the area.

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