Power Players

A glossary of the important operators in the 2003 blackout and its aftermath

3 min read

Regulatory Organizations

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC, Washington, D.C.)

FERC is an independent agency that regulates the interstate transmission of natural gas, oil, and electricity. As part of its responsibility FERC:

Regulates the transmission and sale of natural gas for resale in interstate commerce.

Regulates the transmission of oil by pipeline in interstate commerce.

Regulates the transmission and wholesale sales of electricity in interstate commerce.

Licenses and inspects private, municipal, and state hydroelectric projects.

Approves the siting of and abandonment of interstate natural gas facilities, including pipelines, storage, and liquefied natural gas.

Oversees environmental matters related to natural gas and hydroelectricity projects and major electricity policy initiatives.

Administers accounting and financial reporting regulations and conduct of regulated companies.


Independent System Operators (ISOs)

ISOs are state or regional organizations created to oversee or directly manage deregulated grids, in which producers and users can exchange electricity. Some also manage the electricity market. So far they have been established in California, New York, Texas, the Midwest, and New England.


Regional Transmission Organizations (RTOs)

RTOs are larger oversight bodies than ISOs that regulate transmission grids on a regional or super-regional basis. So far there are two: Midwest, considered both an ISO and RTO, and the PJM Interconnection, which previously was considered an ISO.


North American Electric Reliability Council (NERC, Princeton, N. J.)

NERC is a not-for-profit company formed as a result of the Northeast blackout in 1965 to promote the reliability of bulk electric systems that serve North America. NERC works with all segments of the electric industry, as well as with customers, to "keep the lights on" by developing and encouraging compliance with rules for the reliable operation of the electric grid. NERC membership includes 10 Regional Reliability Councils that account for virtually all the electricity supplied in the United States, Canada, and a portion of Mexico.


U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC, Washington, D.C.)

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is an independent agency established by the Energy Reorganization Act of 1974 to regulate civilian use of nuclear materials. Its mission is to regulate the nation's civilian use of nuclear materials to ensure adequate protection of public health and safety, to promote the common defense and security of the nation, and to protect the environment. The NRC regulatory mission covers three main areas:

Commercial reactors for generating electric power and non-power reactors used for research, testing, and training.

Uses of nuclear materials in medical, industrial, and academic settings and facilities that produce nuclear fuel.

Transportation, storage, and disposal of nuclear materials and waste, and decommissioning of nuclear facilities from service.


Research and Development Organizations and Energy Advocates

The Department of Energy (DOE, Washington, D.C.)

The DOE's overarching mission is to advance the economic and energy security of the United States. It is also responsible for promoting scientific and technological innovation in support of that mission and for ensuring the environmental cleanup of the national nuclear weapons complex.


Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI, Palo Alto, Calif.)

EPRI is a nonprofit organization that provides science and technology-based solutions to its global energy customers. The organization manages a far-reaching program of scientific research, technology development, and product implementation. EPRI's technical program spans virtually every aspect of power generation, delivery, and use, including environmental considerations.


Edison Electric Institute (EEI, Washington, D.C.)

Organized in 1933, the EEI works closely with U.S. shareholder-owned electric companies, representing their interests and advocating equitable policies in legislative and regulatory arenas. It provides advocacy, authoritative analysis, and critical industry data to its members, the U.S. Congress, government agencies, the financial community, and other opinion-leaders. EEI provides forums for member company representatives to discuss issues and strategies to advance the industry and to ensure a competitive position in a changing marketplace.


Utilities at the heart of the blackout

FirstEnergy Corp. (Akron, Ohio)

FirstEnergy Corp. is a registered public utility holding company that is the fourth-largest investor-owned electric system in the United States. Its seven electric utility operating companies serve 4.3 million customers within 92 400 square kilometers of Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey.

FirstEnergy also provides natural gas service to approximately 150 000 customers in the Midwest. The company is involved in the exploration and production of oil and natural gas, as well as in the transmission and marketing of natural gas.


American Electric Power (AEP, Columbus, Ohio)

AEP owns and operates more than 42 000 MW of generating capacity in the United States and in some international markets. It is the largest electricity generator in the United States. AEP is also one of the largest electric utilities in the country, with almost five million customers linked to its 11-state electricity transmission and distribution grid.


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