RESEARCH ON CASCADING FAILURE, CRITICALITY AND SELF-ORGANIZATION
IN LARGE BLACKOUTS

Instead of looking at the details of particular cascading failure blackouts,
study the complex system dynamics and risk of series of blackouts

Newspaper and media

Main ideas


Click on paper title to download in Adobe pdf format

analyses of blackout data

15 years of  NERC data on North American blackouts shows a
high risk of rare large blackouts and is consistent with self-organized criticality
The data suggests US grid operation near a critical point.
Evidence for self-organized criticality in a time series of electric power system blackouts
B.A. Carreras, D.E. Newman, I. Dobson, A.B. Poole
  IEEE Transactions on Circuits and Systems I, vol 51, no 9, Sept. 2004, pp 1733  - 1740

Using transmission line outage data to estimate cascading failure propagation in an electric power system
H. Ren, I. Dobson
IEEE Transactions on Circuits and Systems Part II, vol 55,  no 9,  Sept. 2008, pp 927-931

critical transitions that increase cascading blackout risk

These papers study average blackout size and the distribution of blackout sizes as system load is increased in a simulation

Critical points and transitions in an electric power transmission model for cascading failure blackouts
B.A. Carreras, V.E. Lynch, I. Dobson, D.E. Newman,
Chaos, vol 12, no 4, December 2002, pp 985-994
copyright 2002 American Institute of Physics; official link
B.A. Carreras et al.,Chaos, 12, 985 (2002)

Cascading dynamics and mitigation assessment in power system disturbances
via a hidden failure model
 
J. Chen, J.S. Thorp, I. Dobson
International Journal of Electrical Power and Energy Systems, vol 27, no 4, May 2005, pp 318-326
doi:10.1016/j.ijepes.2004.12.003

Criticality in a cascading failure blackout model
D.P. Nedic, I. Dobson, D.S. Kirschen, B.A. Carreras, V.E. Lynch
International Journal of Electrical Power and Energy Systems, vol 28, 2006, pp 627-633
(journal publication of conference paper in Fifteenth Power Systems Computation Conference, Liege Belgium, August 2005)
doi:10.1016/j.ijepes.2006.03.006

simulations of self-organization in series of blackouts

Models the slow dynamics of load growth and engineering improvements as
well as cascading blackouts to show how the system could self-organize to criticality

Complex dynamics of blackouts in power transmission systems
B.A. Carreras, V.E. Lynch, I. Dobson, D.E. Newman
Chaos, vol 14, no 3, September 2004, pp 643-652
copyright 2004 American Institute of Physics; official link
B.A. Carreras et al.,Chaos, 14, 643 (2004)

Long-term effect of the n-1 criterion on cascading line outages in an evolving power transmission grid
H. Ren, I. Dobson, B.A. Carreras
IEEE Transactions on Power Systems, vol 23, no 3, August 2008, pp 1217-1225

 probabilistic model for general cascading failure

An analytically solvable model of cascading failure
A loading-dependent model of probabilistic cascading failure
I. Dobson, B.A. Carreras, D.E. Newman
Probability in the Engineering and Informational Sciences, vol 19, no 1, Jan 2005, pp. 15-32

An approximation quantifies how cascading failures propagate
A branching process approximation to cascading load-dependent system failure
I. Dobson, B.A. Carreras, D.E. Newman
Thirty-seventh Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences, Hawaii, January 2004

mitigation of blackout risk

This paper shows that apparently sensible mitigation methods can lead to counterintuitive
effects when complex system dynamics are considered
Blackout mitigation assessment in power transmission systems
B.A. Carreras, V.E. Lynch, D.E. Newman, I. Dobson
Thirty-sixth Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences, Hawaii, January 2003

Cascading dynamics and mitigation assessment in power system disturbances
via a hidden failure model
 
J. Chen, J.S. Thorp, I. Dobson
International Journal of Electrical Power and Energy Systems, vol 27, no 4, May 2005, pp. 318-326
doi:10.1016/j.ijepes.2004.12.003

The impact of various upgrade strategies on the long-term dynamics and robustness of the transmission grid
D.E. Newman, B.A. Carreras, V.E. Lynch, I. Dobson
Electricity Transmission in Deregulated Markets, conference at Carnegie-Mellon University, Pittsburgh PA, December 2004

Evaluating the effect of upgrade, control and development strategies on robustness and failure risk of the power transmission grid
D.E. Newman, B.A. Carreras, V.E. Lynch,  I. Dobson
Forty-first Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences, Hawaii, January 2008


monitoring of blackout risk

Quantifying cascading failure propagation from blackout simulation results

RESEARCH PLAN for monitoring blackout risk
Ian Dobson, April 2006

Dynamical and probabilistic approaches to the study of blackout vulnerability
of the power transmission grid
B.A. Carreras, V.E. Lynch, D.E. Newman, I. Dobson
Thirty-seventh Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences, Hawaii, January 2004

 A criticality approach to monitoring cascading failure risk and failure propagation in transmission systems
I. Dobson, B.A. Carreras, D.E. Newman
Electricity Transmission  in Deregulated Markets, conference at Carnegie-Mellon University, Pittsburgh PA, December 2004

Branching process models for the exponentially increasing portions of cascading failure blackouts
I. Dobson, B.A. Carreras, D.E. Newman
Thirty-eighth Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences, Hawaii, January 2005

Estimating failure propagation in models of cascading blackouts
I. Dobson, B.A. Carreras, V.E. Lynch, B. Nkei, D.E. Newman
Probability in the Engineering and Informational Sciences,  vol 19,  no 4, October 2005, pp 475-488
(journal publication of conference paper in Probability Methods Applied to Power Systems, Ames Iowa, 2004)

An estimator of propagation of cascading failure
I. Dobson, K.R. Wierzbicki, B.A. Carreras, V.E. Lynch, D.E. Newman
Thirty-ninth Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences, Kauai, Hawaii, January 2006

An approach to statistical estimation of cascading failure propagation in blackouts
K.R. Wierzbicki, I. Dobson
CRIS, Third International Conference on Critical Infrastructures, Alexandria VA, Sept. 2006

Where is the edge for cascading failure?: challenges and opportunities for quantifying blackout risk
I. Dobson
IEEE Power Engineering Society General Meeting, Tampa FL USA, June 2007

Towards quantifying cascading blackout risk
  I. Dobson, K.R. Wierzbicki, J. Kim, H. Ren,
Bulk Power System Dynamics and Control-VII, Charleston SC USA, August 2007


interacting infrastructures

Risk assessment in complex interacting infrastructure systems
D. E. Newman, B. Nkei, B. A. Carreras, I. Dobson, V. E. Lynch, P. Gradney  
Thirty-eighth Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences, Hawaii, January 2005

A simple model for the reliability of an infrastructure system controlled by agents
B.A. Carreras, D.E. Newman,  I. Dobson, M. Zeidenberg
Forty-second Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences, Hawaii, January 2009


overviews

Complex systems analysis of series of blackouts: cascading failure, critical points, and self-organization
I. Dobson, B.A. Carreras, V.E. Lynch, D.E. Newman
Chaos, vol. 17, 026103, June 2007

Towards quantifying cascading blackout risk
  I. Dobson, K.R. Wierzbicki, J. Kim, H. Ren,
Bulk Power System Dynamics and Control-VII, Charleston SC USA, August 2007

Initial review of  methods for cascading failure analysis in electric power transmission systems
  IEEE PES CAMS Task Force on Cascading Failure
IEEE Power Engineering Society General Meeting, Pittsburgh PA USA, July 2008



Newspaper Articles; Media

Why the lights went out 
Jonathan Kay, National Post

How a butterfly's wing can bring down Goliath.
Chaos theories calculate the vulnerability of megasystems
 
Keay Davidson, San Francisco Chronicle

This was a first world blackout 
Chris Suellentrop, Slate magazine

Wisconsin company believes blackout originated in Lansing, Mich.  
Associated Press, Star Tribune

David Newman appeared on NPR radio KUAC FM, August 27

Ian Dobson appeared on ABC Nightline, August 18

Energy scientist studies blackout triggers
Pat Daukantas, Government Computer News

Blackout was no surprise to UAF professor 
Ned Rozell, Anchorage Daily News

The chaos behind the wall socket
Ned Rozell, Fairbanks Daily News-Miner

Getting a grip on nation's grid grind
R. Cathey Daniels, Oak Ridger

Californians work to predict grid-crashing
Ian Hoffman, Oakland Tribune

Elusive force may lie at root of blackout
Richard Perez-Pena and Eric Lipton, New York Times

Set of rules too complex to be followed properly
James Glanz and Andrew Refkin, New York Times

What’s Wrong with the Electric Grid?
Eric Lerner, Industrial Physicist

Quick response is key in emergencies
Tom McGinty, NewsDay

L'energia ha un punto critico
Donata Allegri, Ecplanet

The Power Grid: Fertile Ground for Math Research
Sara Robinson, SIAM News, Volume 36, Number 8, October 2003

Black-out: cause e mezzi per prevenirli
Carlo Alberto Nucci e Alberto Borghetti, Rivista ENERGIA, n. 3, pp. 20-29, 2003

The Power Grid as Complex System
Sara Robinson, SIAM News, Volume 36, Number 10, December 2003

The Unruly Power Grid
Peter Fairley, IEEE Spectrum, August 2004

Remember last year's big blackout? Get ready for another one
Stephen Strauss, The Globe and Mail, August 14, 2004



Main ideas

(1) Instead of looking at the details of particular blackouts, study the statistics, dynamics and risk of series of blackouts with approximate global models.

(2) 15 years of NERC blackout data yields a probability distribution of blackout sizes with a power tail.  Thus large blackouts are much more likely than expected and, when costs are considered, their risk is comparable to the risk of small blackouts.  The data also suggests North American grid operation near a critical point.

(3) Imagine increasing power system system load from zero (independent failures and negligible chance of large blackout) to emergency loading of all components (certain cascading failure). We think there is a critical loading (phase transition) in between these extremes at which there is a sharply  increased chance of cascading failure. Our models show power tails at this critical point.  The critical loading is an operating limit related to cascading failure risk. We are developing ways of processing real or simulated data to quantify how close this critical loading is.

(4) Load growth at 2% per year reduces power system margins of operation whereas the engineering responses to blackouts (caused by small margins) increase margins.  These opposing forces could dynamically self-organize the system to the critical point.  Mitigation of blackout risk should take care to account for counter-intuitive effects in complex self-organized critical systems.  For example, suppressing small blackouts could lead the system to be operated closer to the edge and ultimately increase the risk of large blackouts.


FOR A COMPLETE LIST OF PAPERS SEE
Ian Dobson home page

THIS RESEARCH WAS DONE BY CLOSE COLLABORATION BETWEEN
Ian Dobson at the UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN-MADISON
Benjamin Carreras and Vickie Lynch at OAK RIDGE NATIONAL LABORATORY
David Newman at UNIVERSITY OF ALASKA-FAIRBANKS
James Thorp and Jie Chen at VIRGINIA TECH and CORNELL UNIVERSITY


FUNDING FOR THIS RESEARCH BY CERTS/ DOE, NSF, AND PSerc
AS DETAILED BELOW
IS GRATEFULLY ACKNOWLEDGED
The work from 2001 to 2004 was coordinated by the
Consortium for Electric Reliability Technology Solutions and
funded in part by the Assistant Secretary for Energy
Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Office of Power Technologies,
Transmission Reliability Program of the U.S. Department of Energy
under contract  9908935 and Interagency Agreement
DE-A1099EE35075 with the National Science Foundation.
The work was funded in part by
National Science Foundation
grants ECS-0214369 and ECS-0216053.
The work from 2005 was supported in part by the
Power Systems Engineering Research Center PSerc, an NSF I/UCRC.
Part of this research has been carried out at Oak Ridge National
Laboratory, managed by UT-Battelle, LLC, for the U.S. Department of
Energy under contract number DE-AC05-00OR22725.

  November 2008