An interim report issued on Wednesday by a U.S.-Canada joint task force examining the massive Aug. 14 blackout that cut through large swaths of the U.S. and Canada says that Ohio-based FirstEnergy Corp. and the Midwest Independent Transmission System Operator (MISO) violated several voluntary reliability standards set by the North American Electric Reliability Council (NERC).

The report underscores the fact that these are initial findings and are subject to further review by NERC. Also, additional violations may be identified.

Regarding FirstEnergy, the report said that following the outage of the Chamberlin-Harding 345-kV power line, FirstEnergy did not take the necessary actions to return the system to safe operating conditions within 30 minutes. The report cites a NERC operating policy that states: “Following a contingency or other event that results in an operating security limit violation, the control area shall return its transmission system to within operating security limits [as] soon as possible, but no longer than 30 minutes.”

Other FirstEnergy violations of NERC reliability standards cited in the report are:

As for MISO, the report said that the electric grid operator violated NERC standards by failing to notify other reliability coordinators of potential problems. MISO also violated NERC reliability rules because it did not have adequate monitoring capability.

The report states that the outages were “caused by deficiencies in specific practices, equipment and human decisions that coincided that afternoon.” It lists three groups of blackout causes. The first group involves “inadequate situational awareness” at FirstEnergy. Specifically, the utility “failed to ensure the security of its transmission system after significant unforeseen contingencies because it did not use an effective contingency analysis capability on a routine basis.”

FirstEnergy lacked procedures to ensure that the company’s operators were continually aware of the functional state of their “critical monitoring tools,” according to the report. The utility also “lacked procedures to test effectively the functional state of these tools after repairs were made.” In addition, FirstEnergy “did not have additional monitoring tools for high-level visualization of the status of their transmission system to facilitate its operators’ understanding of transmission system conditions after the failure of their primary monitoring/alarming systems.”

The second group of causes involves what the report said was FirstEnergy’s failure to adequately manage tree growth in its transmission rights of way. “This failure was the common cause of the outage of three FE [FirstEnergy] 345-kV transmission lines.”

The third group of causes relates to the failure of the interconnected grid’s reliability organizations to “provide effective diagnostic support.” In particular, the report said that MISO did not have real-time data from Dayton Power & Light’s Stuart-Atlanta 345-kV line incorporated into its status estimator, a system monitoring tool. This precluded MISO from becoming aware of FirstEnergy’s system problems earlier and providing diagnostic assistance to FirstEnergy.

The report also said that MISO’s reliability coordinators were using non-real-time data to support real-time “flowgate” monitoring. This prevented MISO from detecting an “N-1” security violation in FirstEnergy’s system and from assisting FirstEnergy in necessary relief actions.

Also, the task force concluded that MISO lacked an effective means of identifying the location and significance of transmission line breaker operations reported by their Energy Management System. “Such information would have enabled MISO operators to become aware earlier of important line outages.”

In addition, the report said that PJM Interconnection and MISO lacked joint procedures or guidelines on when and how to coordinate a security limit violation observed by one of them in the other’s area due to a contingency near their common boundary.

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