FirstEnergy Says Improvements Made To Prevent Blackout

Company Says Deregulation Contributes To System Pr

AKRON, Ohio - Last week, Ohio's four major electric utilities told Gov. Bob Taft that there's plenty of generating capacity this summer to avoid a repeat of last year's blackout, reported NewsChannel5's Brad Harvey.

Akron-based FirstEnergy, which shouldered much of the blame for the blackout, says it has spent the last several months developing new training for its workers and upgrading equipment.

The company also said it has overseen inspection of its transmission lines to make sure they won't sag into trees -- the problem responsible for the blackout.

"We've done foot patrols of all 15,000 miles," said Mark Durban, of FirstEnergy. "We've also enhanced aerial patrols that we use to make better use of that, so we've done a number of things to enhance our reliability."

FirstEnergy says another reason it is sure there is enough power to prevent a power crisis or blackout is that Davis-Besse nuclear power plant is up and running, which was not the case during last summer's blackout.

After last fall's damaging report from the Department of Energy, FirstEnergy chief executive officer Anthony Alexander said there's a lot more to consider.

"Our transmission system was designed and built to provide reliable service to our customers, not to be a superhighway for long-distance transactions to Canada or elsewhere," said Alexander.

Today, there has been little done to change what is clearly an industry-wide issue, reported Harvey.

"There is a bigger picture here, and the lines are being used in ways they were never designed for," said Durban.

He says it's a result of years of deregulation. Regulating policy varies widely from state to state, and until there's a comprehensive plan standardizing the way electricity is transmitted around the grid, many feel there's no solution to the real problem.

"We can do our part … but until the nation looks at the big picture, that's really not going to change," said Durban.

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