2003 NorthEast Blackout Review

The Ontario Liberal official talking points about the 2003 blackout, which they reference as frequently as possible, are that former Conservative Premier Mike Harris caused it and that Dalton McGuinty’s Liberals fixed it by building wind mills.

This New York Times review is a fact-based antidote to this careless politicking.

The review does not note, but might have, that Ontario had legally enforceable grid protection standards with penalties before the 2003 blackout and that Ontario’s enforceable standards became a model for the changes that were subsequently implemented throughout the US.

The review gives voice to those who argue that the 2003 blackout proves that we need to dramatically increase spending on the power grid. Unfortunately, these comments are presented without attention to the widespread decline in electricity demand across much of the north eastern region of North America in recent years.

The review also draws attention to the blackout risks due to malicious intent such as a cyber attack or terrorism. The extent to which the move toward increased automation of the power system through Smart Grid enhances this risk is not addressed.


  1. Next time, I wonder if another politician will come across our battery-operated radios with an urgent announcement like in 2003 – ie: don’t cut your grass with a gas-powered lawnmower or cook on a propane BBQ ‘cuz you’ll be polluting “the environment” (translation: unimportant if everything in your freezer spoils, you starve to death and get hit below the belt with a “property standards” bylaw infraction). Getting out of touch with reality more every day, so wait for it…

    Imagine if it’s Canadian high winter next ’round and people in high-rises with electric baseboard heat can’t keep warm (as opposed to can’t keep cool ‘cuz decent-sized windows aren’t safe enough for Nanny’s liking) unless back-up gas/diesel/propane generators are at-the-ready? Brrr…

    Oh well, at least the Omnipotent Back-Door Nannies will have a reprieve from their joint fretting over “The Children”TM sneaking in to a tanning salon and getting roasted alive and wringing their hands with worry about what anyone might be eating that they shouldn’t be, ’til the power comes back on…

    • A few years ago, I was present where a couple of engineers were discussing energy issues. And I asked one who is a retired V.P. of large energy corporation when the public would become aware of energy issues as he replied “when the lights go out”.
      Am ofen at gatherings where engineers discuss various kinds of energy issues but of course none of this is for public consumption. Holding on to jobs is always a concern.

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