March 5, 2010 / 11:41 PM / 10 years ago

Florida grid agency fined over 2008 blackout

HOUSTON (Reuters) - The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission said on Friday it approved a settlement under which the Florida electric grid agency will pay a civil penalty related to a 2008 blackout that left nearly one million Florida residents without power for several hours.

The fine is the first levied against one of the seven regional grid overseers under joint enforcement authority between FERC and the North American Electric Reliability Corp (NERC), a FERC spokeswoman said.

The Florida Reliability Coordinating Council (FRCC) will pay a $350,000 fine and take steps to improve grid reliability under the settlement stemming from the February 26, 2008, blackout, FERC said in a release.

Last year, FERC approved a $25 million settlement with FPL Group’s Florida Power and Light unit which was blamed for starting the blackout.

Until Congress acted after the 2003 Northeast blackout, the predecessor agency to NERC created grid operating standards but lacked enforcement authority when violations occurred.

On February 26, 2008, residents across central and South Florida experienced a blackout that started with human error at an FPL substation in west Miami that rapidly cascaded through the system.

As 22 transmission lines tripped out of service, more than 4,300 megawatts of generation were knocked offline.

The joint FERC/NERC investigation resulted in allegations that FRCC violated nine reliability standards established under the Energy Policy Act of 2005 related to staffing of telecommunication facilities needed during emergencies, employee training and other rules.

Since the event, FRCC has taken steps to improve grid performance, including increasing reliability coordinator staffing and improving communication protocols, according to a FERC release.

Reporting by Eileen O'Grady

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