Reliability of Electric Power Supply
The Power Blackout that plunged New York State, A most of New England, small sections of New Jersey and Pennsylvania, and a large part of the Canadian Province of Ontario into darkness in the late afternoon of November 9 dramatized urban North America's total dependence on centrally generated electric energy. The power failure, occurring during the peak evening rush hour, left 30 million persons literally in the dark. More than 600,000 were stranded for hours in New York City's subway trains or in elevators of its towering office buildings.
This massive “outage,” finally traced to failure to make an overdue adjustment at a substation on the Ontario side of the Niagara River, raised serious doubts about the reliability of the nation's power supply. Questions were raised in particular about the wisdom of power pooling arrangements under which numerous utilities tie their high voltage lines together to permit interchange of power and thereby considerably reduce capital outlays.
Electric power grids, aside from saving money, have been thought to afford safeguards against widespread blackouts, because they make it possible to rush power to any area in the system that may be afflicted by an equipment failure. But the rapid spread of the November blackout—which moved in 12 minutes from the tripped-out line in Ontario to Manhattan—demonstrated that grid interconnections under some circumstances may do just the opposite–knock out functioning power lines on a grand scale instead of put back to work a single momentarily disabled system.