Electricity Reliability

Electricity Reliability
The reliability of the electric power system is critical to the economic vitality of the nation and the well-being of society. Electricity reliability depends upon the seamless operation of three independent interconnected power systems that span North America. They are the largest machines ever created by mankind and have been called the greatest engineering achievement of the 20th century. Today, the power system is being challenged, as the infrastructure ages and new operating challenges emerge, such as the integration of variable renewable generation. Blackouts are rare, but when they occur they are front page headlines.

LBNL’s electricity reliability research focuses on both technical and institutional issues, including technology development, metrics and trends, and economic value to electricity consumers.

Electricity Reliability Technology Research and Development

Re-engineering the power system to take advantage of the current revolution in information technologies is key to addressing growing operating challenges faced by the electricity grid. LBNL manages the program office for the Consortium for Electric Reliability Technology Solution (CERTS), which was formed in 1999 to research, develop, and disseminate new methods, tools, and technologies to protect and enhance the reliability of the U.S. electric power system and the efficiency of competitive electricity markets. CERTS’ work helps the power grid benefit from new sensing, communication, computation, and control technologies.

Electricity and Bulk Power Reliability Metrics and Trends

A common management precept holds that you cannot manage something effectively unless you can measure it. Grid reliability performance metrics are essential for managing reliability because they provide a quantitative, objective basis for evaluating the efficacy of actions taken to maintain or improve grid reliability. LBNL, with help from industry and government agencies, conducts research on reliability metrics and methods to ensure collection of consistent, comprehensive information about reliability performance. LBNL’s work also assesses trends in reliability as a basis for assessing the impacts of reliability policies, practices, and technologies over time.

The Economic Value of Reliability for Electricity Consumers

The value that consumers place on reliable electricity service can be used to assess the economic efficiency of investments in electricity generation, transmission, and distribution systems. LBNL’s research evaluates which customer segments would benefit most from potential system improvements and quantifies the risks associated with different operating, planning, and investment strategies. LBNL has developed customer damage functions that estimate power interruption costs based on the number of customers affected; their rate class; and the time of day, season of the year, and length of the interruption. This information has been used to develop a national estimate of the annual consumer cost of power interruptions.

Blackout Investigations

Investigations of major power blackouts require months of technical work and coordination. LBNL provided technical support to the U.S. DOE-appointed team investigating power outages that took place during the summer of 1999 and participated in the U.S.-Canada investigation of the 2003 Northeast blackout.

Related Publications



Sathre, Roger, Hanna Breunig, Peter H. Larsen, Eric Masanet, Thomas McKone, Nigel Quinn, and Corinne Scown. "Spatially-explicit impacts of carbon capture and sequestration on water supply and demand." In Eleventh Annual Carbon Capture, Utilization & Sequestration Conference. Pittsburgh, PA, 2012. Download: PDF (2.91 MB)
Fisher, Emily, Joseph H. Eto, and Kristina Hamachi LaCommare. "Understanding Bulk Power Reliability: The Importance of Good Data and A Critical Review of Existing Sources." In IEEE 45th Hawaii International Conference on Systems Science (HICSS), 1. Maui, HI: LBNL, 2012. Download: PDF (314.24 KB)


Sullivan, Michael J., Matthew G. Mercurio, Josh A. Schellenberg, and Joseph H. Eto. "How to Estimate the Value of Service Reliability Improvements." In IEEE Power and Energy Society General Meeting, 5. Minneapolis, MN: LBNL, 2010.







Interim Report: Causes of the August 14th Blackout in the United States and Canada. U.S.-Canada Power System Outage Task Force, 2003. Download: PDF (3.67 MB)
Goldman, Charles A.. Demand Response: An Untapped Resource for Western Electricity Markets In FERC Western Energy Infrastructure Conference Denver, Colorado July 30, 2003. Berkeley: LBNL, 2003. Download: PDF (488.61 KB)
Lesieutre, Bernard C., and Charles A. Goldman. A Review of Market Monitoring Activities at U.S. Independent System Operators In Western Interstate Energy Board Committee on Regional Electric Power Cooperation Las Vegas NV November 4, 2003. Berkeley: LBNL, 2003. Download: PDF (354.99 KB)
Lesieutre, Bernard C.. Congestions Costs in Electricity Markets In Japan-America Frontiers of Engineering Symposium November 20-22, 2003. Berkeley: LBNL, 2003. Download: PDF (397.22 KB)


Goldman, Charles A.. Demand Response Programs: Configuring Load as a Resource for Competitive Electricity Markets In NARUC Winter Meeting Washington DC Feb. 13, 2002. Berkeley: LBNL, 2002. Download: PDF (571.7 KB)