Gridlock: Giving New England a power grid for this century.


Byline: Gordon van Welie COLUMN: AS I SEE IT A recent report on how the state escaped the worst of last summer's blackout also highlighted how we may not be so fortunate next time. The report, written by Gov. Mitt Romney's Task Force on Electric Reliability and Outage Preparedness, makes two things very clear. One, New England has come a long way toward establishing a reliable and competitive electricity system, but issues remain. Two, Massachusetts is part of interconnected regional and national power systems that require regional and national approaches to continue the progress we have made. Like the nation's highways, the electric power system exceeds the scope of individual regions. To prevent the next blackout, we need regional solutions that strengthen the region's electricity system and national standards to ensure that inadequacies in other regions do not jeopardize our power supply. In the immediate aftermath of the blackout, ISO New England made several regional and national policy recommendations, and began studying a series of operational improvements for industry-wide application that will help ensure power system reliability and limit the likelihood of similar events in the future. The governor's Task Force confirmed the need to implement several of these initiatives. Establish independent regional authorities to ensure reliability: The blackout showed the importance of having a single operator control a region's power grid, and the task force confirms the wisdom of having "one set of hands on the wheel" at all times managing power system reliability. We have proposed that ISO New England be designated as a regional transmission organization (RTO), assuming all of the responsibilities we currently perform and becoming the region's transmission provider. Last August, ISO New England was able to quickly stabilize the New England region and restore those few areas that lost power, but our authority to do this is neither complete nor clearly defined, and can be changed unilaterally by utilities and other market participants. The proposal would strengthen our independence to ensure that those who profit from the market do not control it. An independent entity, without a financial stake in any sector or segment of the market, is much better positioned to make impartial decisions concerning the region's power system and wholesale marketplace. Such independence would give a New England RTO clear operational authority over the power system to preserve...

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