TitleThe social structure of large scale blackouts
NamePark, Hyunsoo (author), Andrews, Clinton J. (chair), Wiggins, Lyna (internal member), Rubin, Julia Sass (internal member), Clarke, Lee (outside member), Rutgers University, Graduate School - New Brunswick,
SubjectPlanning and Public Policy,
Electric power failures--Social aspects--United States,
Electric lines--United States,
Electric power transmission--Reliability
DescriptionThis dissertation analyzes and explores the social structure of large scale blackouts from organizational and institutional perspectives and in consideration of power relations. Between 1965 and 2003, large scale blackouts or cascading outages have happened continually in the West, Midwestern, and Northeastern regions in the United States. Because technology is not separate from society, it is helpful to examine large scale blackouts as a case of the collapse of socio-technical systems. From this perspective, the dissertation first tests hypotheses regarding the characteristics of vulnerable power systems. Then it explores four representative, large scale blackouts: the 1965 Northeast blackout, the 1977 New York City blackout, the 1996 Western blackout, and the 2003 Northeast blackout. In particular, it examines the creation of institutions for electricity reliability, the characteristics of the institutions for electricity reliability in each historical period, and the interactions between electric utilities and those institutions. The hypothesis test identifies as vulnerable those power systems having large size utility companies, weak institutional conditions (no strict standards, lack of complex human management, and weak regulatory relationships), high summer peaks, greater electric power losses than others, and (or) less investment in facilities and technologies. These characteristics are outcomes of the historical development and organization of power systems that created tightly interconnected power systems with individualized systems control. Large scale blackouts usually happen in the regions where vulnerable control areas are located. The four case studies show that cascading outages happen continually due to the repeated failure to create “a culture of reliability” among organizations by means of a strong institution. Such an institution would centralize basic premises and assumptions corresponding to the interconnected grid systems and decentralize system operators’ decisions at the local level. Power relations obstruct the development of strong institutions for creating a culture of reliability that is necessary in inter-organizational relationships, resulting in an imbalance between efficiency and reliability. Powerful groups, usually private utilities whose interests are different from those of legislators and regulators, impede the centralization of values and goals in the inter-organizational relationships, and determine the degree of centralization.
NoteIncludes bibliographical references
Noteby Hyunsoo Park
CollectionGraduate School - New Brunswick Electronic Theses and Dissertations
Organization NameRutgers, The State University of New Jersey
RightsThe author owns the copyright to this work.