The 2003 Blackout that affected the Midwest and Northeast United States prompted reliability standards for the bulk power system (BPS). The North American Reliability Corp. (NERC) now handles these standards to help prevent mass blackouts.
In the past, every entity from wind farms to baseload generation facilities were regarded in the same way. Anything that didn’t meet standards became a federal case.
Today, however, it’s possible to work through minimal-risk concerns without government oversight. Operators with a positive previous performance may self-report small issues and investigate it themselves. As with any self-logging, the places in question must possess a technically accurate point of risk with the eight regional electric reliability councils under NERC authority.
Although there are different risks associated with different entities, there are continent-wide risks shared each year through NERC. These risks include:
- * Cyber security of sensitive areas.
- * Asset management and maintenance.
- * System analysis and planning.
Some risks are unique to their location. The North American grid, for example, contains four interconnections. The regional electric reliability councils determine what risks are special to a particular region using data from power system events or infrastructural changes. In order to determine the best plan for separate entities, these entity-specific risks are studied.
Highly complex analysis takes the facility, grid location, and configuration into play. Technical power system and control system experts compile data from generation interconnection agreements, control system diagrams, and system one-lines to complete entity risk assessments.
In this way, different entities are then categorized accordingly based on grid location and their interactions. A risk-based approach to NERC compliance would begin by determining what regional risks are involved, such as telecommunications infrastructure for standby control services and facility ratings.
After careful scrutiny, an entity would undergo further analysis based on specific areas, such as the facilities and the configurations. Examples of points considered in the study include the size of units and their locations, the status as a transmission owner or transmission operator, and the control system and its networks.
After reviewing the responses, the Regional Entity can then decide which of the standards apply, whether continent-wide or regional risks also apply, and what should be the main focus. An oversight plan is then presented.
A Regional Entity may use compliance tools that include spot checks, audits, and self-certifications. Whether or not a standard is labeled material to an entity does not ensure its inclusion in the audit. It may not receive oversight and instead be based on management’s attention to detail and internal controls. In this way, an entity may perform less oversight (or not at all) even if it is in an area that is a risk to the bulk power system. Although the risk isn’t fluctuating, the plan is flexible enough to allow for any warranted and justified oversight.
Beta Engineering has provided turnkey substation and transmission projects for more than 40 years. We specialize in EPC services for high voltage substations, transmission lines, switchyards, FACTS and GIS projects.