Today's Electric Power GridsIssue: Winter 2003-2004
On August 14th, blackouts crippled the Canadian province of Ontario and the eastern United States, making it the largest power failure in American history: over 50 million people and more than 9,300 square miles were affected. Then, on August 28, London was plunged into darkness. One month later, Italy's entire electrical grid shut down. These highly visible blackouts have called into question a global trend in the electric power industry. Whatever one calls it—"de-regulation", "competition" or "liberalization"—the notion, at its core, is that certain elements of the electric supply industry can better meet national energy goals if existing monopolies are weakened and some levels of competition is introduced.