This Tuesday we will see who will gets the power in the primaries. Last Tuesday we saw who lost the power: 584,000 customers in Florida! Not a pretty sight. The good news? 66% had power restored within an hour, 90% within two hours, and virtually all power restored in time for dinner. Most importantly, the nuclear reactors did what they were supposed to and protected themselves. All-in-all very significant when you consider that the outage involved 3,400 megawatts of generating capacity: 26 transmission lines, 38 substations, and three major generation plants including Turkey Point. You have to give credit to Florida Power & Light Company. Its' reputation as a high quality, efficient and customer-driven utility company was unfortunately put through quite a the test that, upon reflection, I think many people in Florida should feel fortunate about them passing. It could have been so much worse.
So what happened? Who turned out the lights? Well, apparently this was caused by a single individual(not a terrorist) but rather an employee. Chalk it down to human error! Looks like a field engineer, fixing a switch, went a bit too far disabling relays. In most of the industry's I work with, human induced problems now accounts for the largest and fastest growing percentage of errors companies face. We all know that part of the human experience is we do make mistakes. "To err is human..." "If you are not making mistakes, you are not trying hard enough...", etc... Of course, when it comes to critical systems such as power, we have to see this as an opportunity to learn and to apply more automation or (autonomic) responses and procedures for faults thus reducing the opportunity for this kind of human error to repeat itself. That is very relevant to the solution architecture we are working on. For example, the ability to combine recently acquired Maximo technology with fault and topology knowledge provided by Tivoli discovery and monitoring enables us to drive more intelligent automation based on these types of learning.
You know, it is only a matter of time before it happens again. Remember the last massive power outage in 2003, when about 50 million people were left without power across the northeastern United States and Canada? I do!(I lost a whole freezer full of food in that one) This is indeed a critical area we continue to focus on. We have a ways to go but it is encouraging that we are making progress in continually improving management systems to learn, to better protect and to reduce response time to such events.