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FirstEnergy Corp. defends its system as shares plunge on stock market

Aug. 19, 2003 — With service restored to its customers, FirstEnergy Corp. said it is collecting and analyzing data regarding the system, and would expect that the same effort is under way at utilities and regional transmission operators across the region.

The energy company’s stock plunged as much as 14 percent on Monday after reports began to circulate that some problem in the utility’s system may have triggered the blackouts that cut power to 50 million people in northeastern U.S. and Canada.
FirstEnergy characterized these reports as ‘misinterpretations’ and said that extensive data needs to be gathered and analyzed in order to determine with any degree of certainty the circumstances that led to the outage.

What happened on Thursday afternoon is a very complex situation, far broader than the power line outages it experienced on its system, FirstEnergy said.

From the preliminary data being gathered — and based on what others are providing — it is clear that the transmission grid in the Eastern Interconnection, not just within our system, was experiencing unusual electrical conditions at various times prior to the event. These included unusual voltage and frequency fluctuations and load swings on the grid.

Contrary to speculation, these unexplained conditions were detected as early as noon on Thursday in the broad region, not just within FirstEnergy’s system.

As reported in yesterday’s statement by the North American Electric Reliability Council (NERC), “Pinpointing the exact cause of the blackouts will be a challenging task; events that occurred on one utility’s system may have been affected by events on utility systems elsewhere in the Eastern Interconnection.”

According to NERC’s President and CEO Michehl Gent, “… any attempt on our part to identify the cause of the outages at this point would be speculative and premature…”

FirstEnergy said it is committed to working with the U.S. Canadian Task Force and other appropriate groups involved to determine the sequence of events that led to the outage and what needs to be done by all of us in the region to prevent it from happening again.