North American Electric Reliability Corporation

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The North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC), a nonprofit corporation based in Princeton, NJ, was formed on March 28, 2006 as the successor to the North American Electric Reliability Council (also known as NERC). The original NERC was formed on June 1, 1968 by the electric utility industry to promote the reliability and adequacy of bulk power transmission in the electric utility systems of North America. NERC's mission states that it is to "ensure that the bulk power system in North America is reliable."

NERC oversees eight regional reliability entities and encompasses all of the interconnected power systems of the contiguous United States, Canada and a portion of Baja California in Mexico.

NERC's major responsibilities include working with all stakeholders to develop standards for power system operation, monitoring and enforcing compliance with those standards, assessing resource adequacy, and providing educational and training resources as part of an accreditation program to ensure power system operators remain qualified and proficient. NERC also investigates and analyzes the causes of significant power system disturbances in order to help prevent future events.

NERC also provides for critical infrastructure protection (NERC CIP).


Origins of NERC

Early electric power systems such as those installed by George Westinghouse and Thomas Edison prior to the turn of the century were isolated central stations which served small pockets of customers independently of each other. As some of these power systems grew to cover larger geographic areas, it became possible to connect previously isolated systems. This allowed neighboring systems to share generation and voltage stability resources, providing mutual benefit to each side. However, tying power systems together with these early interconnections also introduced the risk that a single significant disturbance could collapse all of the systems tied to the interconnection. Generally it was decided that the benefits outweighed the risks, and by 1915 interconnections began to flourish and grow in size. By the end of the 1960s there were virtually no isolated power systems remaining in the lower forty-eight states and southern Canada, practically all power companies were attached to large interconnections.

In 1962, when the Eastern Interconnection was established in its current form, The Interconnected Systems Group (composed of Southern and Midwestern utility companies), the PJM Interconnection, and the Canada-United States Eastern Interconnection (CANUSE) formed the Interconnection Coordination Committee to recommend an informal operations structure, which led to the formation of the North American Power Systems Interconnection Committee (NAPSIC). NAPSIC eventually grew to also include the Texas Interconnection and most of the companies in what is today the Western Electricity Coordinating Council (WECC), operating within the Western Interconnection.

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